A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Drill Bits Part Two: What is the NCCER Core?

The 5th edition of NCCER’s Core Curriculum has been in circulation for more than a year. I remember the 3rd edition because I was one of the volunteer authors. I was impressed with the group that brought a wide range of experience and knowledge to bear on helping put the finishing touches on the hard work done by NCCER and Pearson beforehand. This was in 2000 and going through each module I had flashbacks to my time at basic training in the US Army.

The comparisons to raw recruits and entry-level construction workers are similar. I sure didn’t know what to expect until a raspy voice told me to get off the **@@ bus and line up. But soon things got sorted out and basic training began in earnest. The goal was to make recruits like me know which direction to point, how to maintain, and how to properly use our trusted M1 rifle and other tools as soldiers.

The NCCER Core Curriculum, like US Army basic training, is a fundamental building block for newcomers that incorporates essential instructions in a systematic and understandable sequence. Individuals without any experience or knowledge, military or construction, are often hazardous to their own health, those around them, as well as equipment and assets. Core, like basic training, is a standardized curriculum. That is important for a whole range of reasons. One is that Module One is Module One in Houston, Atlanta, and Montreal. So what is right in Houston is right everywhere.

There are nine modules starting with Module 1 Basic Safety. Core starts with basic safety because, in my opinion, if trainees get significance of safety, they are valuable on the job on day one. Core is OSHA 10 oriented, which is another industry standardization. The Hand Tools and Power Tools Modules have been updated to include the latest and most sophisticated stuff. The key concept is how to properly use them to make the job safer, easier and more efficient.

My favorite is the Math Module. It is a real-world exercise on how to measure and calculate the everyday things in construction: wood, nails, area, volume and so on. It gives instructors the incentive to do creative things in the class. I have often seen that “AHA” moment in the eyes of trainees.

The Construction Drawing Module is simple enough for trainees to get the idea that this is another tool of the trade that will have more applications in the future. We skip the Rigging Module because NCCER gives us a pass…but the trainees are made aware of the utility of rigging and it’s importance. The soft skills: Employability and Communications Modules are well thought out with real world exercises. Trainees on completing the Employability Module understand their responsibilities and those of employers. The Communications Module in the hands of a mentoring instructor can, through role playing, provide trainees with invaluable experience as to how things are communicated on the job. Many trainees will work as helpers in their first entry-level job. The Material Handling Module is very helpful for anyone performing the helper job. Edition 5 is crammed with solid tidbits and green building information. It also contains bio of the volunteer authors. Needless to say, I’m sold on NCCER Core Curriculum.

Back to my basic training analogy. I couldn’t imagine going into the Army and not going through basic training. NCCER Core Curriculum is the closest thing to basic training for the construction industry. That is why I constantly encourage employers to hire individuals who successfully complete all required modules of the NCCER Core curriculum and get their credentials. I can’t image an infantry soldier that didn’t practice on the rifle range or learn to pitch a tent. Individuals who complete the NCCER Core Curriculum demonstrate that they have finished seventy-two plus hours and successfully passed all modules as well as the hands-on requirements. This is like a rite of passage. Like basic training, Core provides new employees with a range of knowledge that makes them valuable on day one. I’m sold on NCCER Core Curriculum.