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February 14, 2007 11:51 AM CST

The Move to Certification

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The MCAA has developed the National Mason Contractor Certification program and will begin the work of educating our customers and certifying our industry's contractors.
The MCAA has developed the National Mason Contractor Certification program and will begin the work of educating our customers and certifying our industry's contractors.

Nothing can hurt our industry more than to have unqualified mason contractors selected by construction customers simply because they are the lowest bidder. The result is often poorly constructed masonry buildings, poor service and an unhappy client who may not select masonry for their next project.

The industry and Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) have dealt with this problem for decades. Quality contractors always have had to deal with low-bidding, less-than-stellar contractors who compete against them for good jobs. How do you deal with this problem? Some members of our industry feel that we should just leave the situation alone and let the economy deal with sub-par contractors; eventually, they will not be able to find work and disappear. Some choose to try and low bid the unqualified contractor in an attempt to "buy" the work. However, these methods have always resulted in high-quality contractors either losing good jobs or having to walk away from a reasonable profit.

As the only national association representing the industry's contractors, the MCAA has studied this national problem for several years. The Association concludes that the only realistic way to stop low-bidding, sub-par contractors from lowering our industry's standards and weakening our future is to raise the level of professionalism and convince our customers that buying quality ultimately will benefit them. Thus, in an effort to curb any further loss to our industry's market share, the MCAA has proposed the idea of certifying the industry's 20,000 contractors.

A Measure of Quality
Without certification, construction customers do not have an objective, measurable method for determining who qualifies as a quality mason contractor. Oftentimes, the only basis they can use to select a contractor is through the lowest bid. Certification gives clients an objective basis to select a contractor and, in most cases, specify a quality contractor. Certification gives our industry the opportunity to promote and provide a quality measure.

We have heard some complain that certification will make the industry's contractors go through the steps and the expense of gaining certification with no guarantee of gaining any more work or greater profit. Others complain that their ability to stand out would rest solely on their capacity to pass a certification exam. However, what guarantee does the industry have that our future will improve if we leave things the way they are? Unless we do something different, competing construction products will continue to make inroads into traditional masonry markets because of poor performances from unqualified masonry contractors.

There's a well-known saying that states the definition of insanity is to repeatedly do things exactly the same way, but expect a different result. It's time to do things differently and work for a new result.

The MCAA has developed the National Mason Contractor Certification program and, in the next year, will begin the work of educating our customers and eventually certifying our industry's contractors. We do so with encouragement from our industry's customers who look for objective ways to select good contractors for their future projects.

Who Will Be Certified?
The National Mason Contractor Certification program will certify the mason contractor. We all know that the overwhelming majority of our industry's contractors are the owner. Owners will be the driving force in making sure that their companies are certified and follow the quality principles that will guarantee a professional performance. This national certification program is unique in that it ties an ongoing educational program for the contractor's employees with the contractor's ability to achieve and maintain certification.

How to Achieve Certification
The principal will earn credits through various activities. Once 200 credits are achieved, the principal will be eligible to sit for a certification exam to demonstrate his or her command of running a quality masonry firm. In addition, to be eligible to sit for the certification exam, 100 percent of the contractor's supervisory employees must be actively engaged in ongoing continuing education and must complete 15 credits, or two half-day seminars, each year in approved educational events.

How Do You Earn Credits?
Credits can be earned through the MCAA's Educational Series, MCAA accredited chapters that offer educational programs, accredited college courses approved by the MCAA, or through any other educational outlets approved by the MCAA Certification Committee. Credits will be earned based on the following schedule:

  • 15 Credits Attendance at the MCAA National Conference (principal must attend at least two conference educational sessions)

  • 10 Credits Completing an eight-hour, full-day educational seminar

  • 5 Credits Completing a four-hour, half-day educational seminar

  • 2.5 Credits Completing a two-hour educational seminar/workshop

  • 1 Credit Completing a one-hour seminar/workshop

  • 1 Credit Attending an approved chapter monthly meeting with an educational speaker

  • 10 Credits Membership in a masonry industry association approved by the MCAA Certification Committee or other approved associations.
Basic Minimal Requirements
The basic minimal requirements are:

  • 200 earned credits
  • Completion of the MCAA MQI Program
  • MSJC 530/ICC Code
  • 100 percent of the firm's supervisory employees successfully completing two, half-day educational seminars (or 15 credits) per year.
Will You Have to Take a Certification Exam to Become Certified?
Any industry that seeks to raise its professional stature needs to do more than require its participants to just sit through a seminar or class. Those participants must be able to demonstrate their complete understanding and awareness of the quality principles that are sought by the industry. Taking and passing an exam is that one true method to validate the contractor's knowledge and commitment.

Certification cannot be effortless, where the majority can pass with ease. It must be something that can be achieved by everyone through hard work and commitment. Therefore, mason contractors must earn a passing score of 80 percent or higher to achieve certification. The exam will be given at least twice per year, once at the MCAA National Conference and once at the national headquarters. It also may be offered at additional times and locations, as demand warrants.

Re-certification
In order to maintain certification, the principal will need to earn at least 75 credits during a three-year period. In addition, 100 percent of the firm's supervisory employees must be actively engaged in on-going educational training and have achieved at least 30 credits in the same three-year period.

Can a Contractor Lose Certification?
Once earned, a contractor must maintain the designation through re-certification and by maintaining a high, professional standard. If a contractor does not perform at the minimum quality standard or higher, the company will risk losing its certification. Currently, the MCAA is developing the minimum quality standard criteria, and details will be announced at a later date.

Marketing the Program
The Association will work with the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. government and other construction customer groups to gain acceptance and to seek the specification of a Certified Mason Contractor on their projects. It is our goal to have this program provide the standard to which all mason contractors strive to achieve. In addition, we believe that a strong certification program will help to ensure that construction customers do not select an unqualified mason contractor for their projects.

The Association also will implement a national marketing program to promote those contractors that have achieved the status of a Certified Mason Contractor.

For more information on the National Mason Contractor Certification program, call the MCAA at 800-536-2225.


About the Author

David Hill is the President of Pettit Construction Company, Inc. in Roebuck, S.C. David has served several roles in masonry industry including the MCAA Education Committee Chairman, the MCAA Certification Committee Chairman, MCAA South Carolina State Chairman, and the MCAA Region B Vice President.

 

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