A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Snapshots of 2016 NCC: Interview with MCEF President Mike Barkett [VIDEO]

Earlier this year I went to the 2016 ABC National Craft Championships in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  While the competitors were fulfilling the tasks required of them during the hands-on portion of the challenge, I talked with several of the other attendees at this event highlighting craft careers, craft professionals, and the people and programs who train them.

I met Lisa Boyette, the then newly hired Commercial Training Manager for Houston’s Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF), a training affiliate of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Houston.  She introduced me to Mike Barkett, President of the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation, an organization affiliated with nine major trade associations whose joint mission is to train a quality workforce for the construction industry in Mississippi.

Boyette addressed Barkett saying, “You are the President of the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation, and I believe that in that role, the State of Mississippi has mandated that all of the high school students’ apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs utilize NCCER, which is an industry certified training.”

Barkett explained, “Out of all of the high schools in the career and technical divisions – there are 113 – one hundred and seven of those now use the NCCER curriculum.  It has become state-adopted, and that includes over 5,000 high school students utilizing the curriculum.  And now we have taken it to another level: we have got all 26 of the community colleges utilizing the same curriculum that’s adopted by the State of Mississippi as well, so that’s probably another 2000 or 3000 kids, and then we have our own apprenticeship.  So we have roughly trained about 8000 students a year.”

Boyette remarked that having used the NCCER curriculum for 8½ years, they have had the consistency and the same training tool all across the board for everyone in the whole state.  This ensures that when the students go from a pre-apprenticeship program in a high school into an apprenticeship program, the transition is seamless.

Barkett agreed, saying that the beauty of this arrangement is that this training is something that Industry recognizes, that Industry wants.  He said “In Mississippi we have several big industries that say ‘Don’t even come talk to me if you don’t have the credentials.  KBR, Yates, all of those – they say that they won’t even interview.  We’ve got some refineries in the industrial world – Chevron on the Gulf Coast, Ingalls Shipbuilding – say ‘If you don’t come to us with an NCCER credential, even if it is only core, we don’t even interview you.’”

Boyette mentioned that she works with more commercial construction than industrial construction companies, and that she hopes that the commercial companies will “get on board” and adopt these training standards just as the industrial owners do.  She said, “We have to move in that direction – that is my goal in Houston.”

Barkett said that it is so important.  It is hard to find a trained workforce to begin with.  Having credentials supporting the workers allows them to train in Mississippi and then go to a company in Houston.  The new employer can then know what the workers have been trained in and know that they are competent, and they can begin working with them instead of having to “reinvent the wheel each time.”

Boyette remarked that the guys and gals who were competing that day would go back into the industry and into their families, churches, and soccer teams and become “little seeds” for the crafts professions – spreading the word about the career opportunities in construction.

Barkett agreed as he concluded, “This is our future.  If we don’t train our future, we may not be here.”

You can watch this interview in the 3-minute video below, and look for more interviews with other NCC attendees in an upcoming post here on Construction Citizen.