Local 9 Michigan bricklayer and BAC University student Mike Bedell.
Today’s job market not only requires a skilled craftworker to be adept at his or her trade, but also at working with others, planning, organizing, leading, communicating, and learning new technologies. “Employers are looking for those with proven track records; they don’t want someone just to physically build a wall. It is important to understand the personal aspects of a job, such as people skills and teamwork. Diversification of skills may be the key to retaining employment,” says Michael Bedell of Local 9 Michigan. A college degree can offer a pathway for career and personal growth.
BAC University is a collaborative effort between the International Union and Washtenaw Community College (WCC). Although located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, BAC members across the U.S. and Canada have ready access to WCC’s accredited college Certificate or Associate Degree in Construction Supervision since the coursework is completed entirely online.
College Credit for Apprenticeship: Upon successful completion of one three-credit class at WCC and verification of completion of the BAC Apprenticeship, members will receive 25 articulated college credits. Apprenticeship credits will also be articulated on a college transcript, which is useful if a member’s goal is to go on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree at a four-year university.
College on Demand: WCC’s College on Demand™ provides a complete online learning experience – watching video lectures, submitting assignments, taking tests, and interacting with fellow students.
Construction Supervision: The five Construction Supervision classes cover supervision and project management skills, including human resource management, construction phases, and contracts and the legal aspects of construction projects. Completion of these classes leads to a Construction Supervision Certificate. Members can build on the Certificate by applying these classes and apprenticeship credits – along with general education credits such as writing, science, or math – toward a WCC Associate’s Degree.
Construction Supervision classes offer the flexibility of attending class online at any time and members have up to 24 weeks to complete each class. For registration information, visit the BAC University website at www.wccnet.edu/bacuniversity or call a Washtenaw Community College advisor at (888) 232-5476.
Michael Bedell of Local 9 MI has been a bricklayer for 30 years with 10 years of foreman experience. He sees the biggest change in the masonry industry as the shift from “completing an apprenticeship and going to work on the wall” to a new standard: “apprenticeship is only the beginning. You cannot get a job in a plant, mine, or anywhere without additional training and certification.” For Bedell, a key benefit is “understanding the why of what I was doing as a foreman. By understanding the theory of supervision, I know how I fit in a company.”
For those considering online classes, Bedell’s advice is to “overcome the intimidation of college and taking classes; you can do it.” He has enjoyed meeting other building trade students in the online discussion boards and feels that WCC is committed to student success.
Andy Bracy is a member of Local 9 MI and the head of BAC signatory contractor Bracy and Jahr, Inc. His goal in pursuing an Associate’s Degree is the ability “tie together” and expand his prior learning and on-the-job knowledge as bricklayer, supervisor, and contractor. “I wanted to fill in the blanks. I have been able to verify my working knowledge while expanding it, such as conflict resolution and project management through the Construction Supervision classes.” The fact that the program is online is a “huge” benefit. “Day and night classes were not an option for me because of family, kids, and running a business.” He adds: “WCC gives you plenty of time to complete the modules. Setting a daily and weekly schedule works for me.”
Mitch Maher of Local 9 MI also enjoys meeting other students from across the country. “At age 44, it is great to make those connections and be able to learn from others in similar situations.” As a husband and father of two, he has experienced the unexpected benefit of enjoying family time while doing homework. “Working alongside my teenagers doing homework has brought us closer together. They see me working hard.”
He also notes that taking online classes has improved his computer skills and confidence. He sees computers tightly integrated in the future of masonry, making changes to construction projects quicker and more efficient. Maher also highly recommends WCC’s faculty. “I have had fantastic instructors. The video lectures are an invaluable resource.”
Local 1 Michigan member Dwight Bird attends class and studies on his own schedule.
Dwight Bird of Local 1 MI is also in the Construction Supervision Associate Degree Program. Online classes provide flexibility in his schedule. “I can turn on the computer at 3:00 a.m. when I cannot sleep and attend class.” He advises students considering online classes to be “self-disciplined” but stresses that the WCC instructors have helped him by keeping in touch and keeping him motivated. “I am hoping that the more skills I have will mean more work in the future. Knowledge is power,” Bird says.
The Journal wishes to thank WCC FlexEd Program Manager Michele O’Neil for her contributions to this article and BAC University.