Frequently Asked Questions About the MCAA Certification Program
From the phone calls that I have been fielding lately, our efforts to certify the industry's contractors is a highly welcomed move. Virtually all of the comments believe that this program is a strong effort which will ultimately result in our ability to promote quality while at the same time, weed out those less stellar contractors that have dragged our industry down. Members of the Mason Contractors Association of America and non-members alike seem engaged toward earning their certification.
But there are questions about the specifics of the program. Here are some of the frequently asked questions and answers that may help you in your efforts toward certification:
Question: When will the Masonry Quality Institute Program be given next and where?
Answer: By the time this article appears, we will have two programs offered. One on May 31 & June 1 in Chicago and one on June 13 &14 in New York. None will be offered during the summer months and the fall schedule has not been set. I'd urge everyone that is interested to get to one right away and get that requirement out of the way. You can go on the MCAA Website at www.masoncontractors.org to get updates on future educational programs that we will be offering.
Question: What educational programs count toward my certification?
Answer: There are two mandatory classes that count. The Masonry Quality Institute (MQI) is worth 20 points and the Code Seminar is worth 5 points. Really virtually everything else will count. Local association educational programs will count, safety classes such as the OSHA 10 Hour Safety Class will count, if the owner goes through our 2 day Foreman class it will count for 20 points. College classes that have a direct relationship on running a masonry business could count. AIA programs that relate to our industry would count. Beyond the two mandatory classes it's up to the contractors to determine the core curriculum.
Question: Does the MCAA keep track of my points as I earn them?
Answer: No, you keep your records but make sure that you have proof that you took the classes that can be verified. Once you believe that you have achieved the minimum requirements to take the exam, you will submit documentation along with your application to take the exam that will verify that you have achieved the minimum requirements and you will be allowed to take the Certification Exam.
Question: 200 credits is a lot to reach just to be able to take the exam. Why so high?
Answer: In order for the MCAA to get owners (AIA, CSI the Federal Government and private sector interests, etc.) to specify the use of a certified mason contractor, the program has to be credible. The steps that you will be taking to achieve certification will be our strongest marketing tool to get buy in from our customers. Besides, most of our members probably have more points accumulated toward their certification already. You are a member so that's ten points right there.
Question: I heard that you will grandfather some education that I already have taken. What will count & how far back will you go?
Answer: Yes, we will accept educational programs that you have already taken. Although it hasn't been determined how far back yet. I'd suggest that you do inventory of the classes and events you have been to cataloged by year going back at least 5 years. You may be farther toward your certification then you think. Once the committee decides how far back we will go you will be able to determine how many more credits you will need.
Question: How can I be sure what program will count?
Answer: As members, we will guide you through the process. Submit to us the list of educational programs that you have taken and we will be glad to review your educational credits and give you our interpretation of how many of your educational credits would count.
Question: Why are you requiring all my foremen to take educational classes in order for me to be eligible to take the exam?
Answer: The committee felt that the success of a contractor and his ability to perform quality work is in his supervisory personnel. Requiring foremen to gain a minimum level of education is of strong interest to customers that we have talked to. We actually looked at requiring 60% of all a contractors personnel having achieve the 15 credits but members felt it was too difficult to achieve that level but that 100% of supervisory personnel were reasonable.
Question: Why did you make the MQI program a mandatory program?
Answer: MQI talks directly to our industry's customers. MQI talks about meeting the customer's requirements 100% of the time and to strive for zero punch lists on projects. The Masonry Quality Institute is the one program that can raise the standard of our industry which is why we are requiring the program. The customer groups that we talked to found great interest in the MQI.
Question: My Foremen went through a formal apprentice training class, will that count toward their 15 educational credits?
Answer: No, the committee believes that the training that is sought should go directly to the heart of being an effective foremen and superintendent and the basic bricklayer techniques. The Task Group is looking for education beyond the basics. It was also felt that 15 hours is a very reasonable level of supervisory training.
Question: Can I lose my certification?
Answer: Yes, although the mechanism by which a contractor can lose their certification has not yet been determined. Again, this goes to the heart of our customers comfort level. If they specify a certified mason contractor, they should have some reasonable assurance that they will get a quality project. The question is what happens if they get a very poor performance and that level of poor performance is habitual. The Certification Seal will become a brand that we must stand behind. If someone abuses that, they will undoubtedly lose their right to use the brand. The Task Force needs to work out how and when that will happen.
Question: How do I Keep My Certification? Will I have to take another test?
Answer: Once you achieve certification, you will have to reapply every 3 years (tying into the code cycle and achieve 75 educational credits in 3 years. No need to take another exam.
Question: I hate tests. It's been 20 years since I took a test and what if I don't pass?
Answer: The exam will be open book. That does not mean that the exam will be easy...it will be tough. But if you go through the educational programs, understand the material such as the masonry code, know where to find answers, you will do fine. Not everyone will pass the first time. If you don't pass, keep working...eventually, if you are dedicated, you will pass. Besides, we won't be publishing the list of people that don't pass, only those that do...so keep trying, your name will appear on the passed list eventually.
Question: My dad is phasing out of the company and I will be taking over in the next few years, can I just be the one to be certified?
Answer: That's a very good question. My guess is probably, I'd suggest submitting a written request and get an interpretation from the committee but it seems reasonable to me.
Question: Did MCAA just do this to make money?
Answer: Absolutely not. If we made everyone become a member, maybe I'd understand that question. You don't have to be a member and we only are mandating one program (MQI) that we conduct. Everything else can be obtained at the local level. I suppose that maybe local chapters will make money by providing educational classes but certainly not the national.
Question: Where will the test be offered and how often?
Answer: Once in Chicago and once at our convention. Then we will offer the exam in areas throughout the country based on demand.
As an association, we believe that the quality conscience contractors will ultimately become certified. It is those same contractors that have spent the time and resources to provide training and education to their employees and who care about the future of the industry. It's those same contractors that are forced to compete with inferior contractors that continue to drag our industry down through poor performance and poor quality construction.
Our members believe that it is time to do things differently and to work for a new result. That new result is a strong national certification program that is fair, achievable and affordable. The key is to get started. Sit down and do an inventory of all of the educational programs that you have gone through over the past five years. You may be closer to earning those 200 credits than you think.
And if I didn't answer your questions in this article, call me at the MCAA office at 800-536-2225 and I'll do my best to answer your questions.
About the Author
Michael Adelizzi was the Executive Director of the Mason Contractors Association of America.