Training News

BAC University: “Knowledge is Power”

Journal: Issue 1 - 2009

Washtenaw Community College President Larry Whitworth, right, with IU President John J. Flynn, at the BAC University signing ceremony at The Flynn Center in December. President Whitworth was “extremely impressed” with The Flynn Center and all the programs available to BAC members.

BAC members are well aware of the time and effort they invest in their apprenticeship. Now, they can get college credit for it, through a “College on Demand” program that offers flexible ways to further their careers and earn college degrees.

The partnership with Washtenaw Community College, “BAC University @ WCC,” lets BAC members in both the U.S. and Canada take courses online at their own pace. The program was started to gain recognition for the years of training that BAC members invest in their careers. “The BAC/IMI apprentice program provides college-level training, and this approach validates that,” says IMI National Director of Apprenticeship and Training Steve Martini.

Once members have enrolled in WCC, they get a big head start, with 25 credits awarded for their BAC apprenticeship. To date, the brick and tile curriculum are approved, with others in the pipeline. Previous college credits may also apply.

Members interested in construction management can earn 15 more credits and a Construction Supervision Certificate by taking five core classes like motivating employees and scheduling. To earn an associate’s degree, members can round out their credit requirements with general courses like writing, arts, math or science. That degree can also be applied towards a Bachelor’s Degree through the National Labor College and other participating schools. WCC offers all BAC members lower “in district” rates, and a typical three-credit class costs around $200.

Local 9 Michigan Training Director Howard Hipes, who helped launch the idea, believes it will be a valuable recruitment tool. “Everybody tells their kids to go to college,” Hipes notes. “This program can help show that construction is not a dead end; it’s a career. If you can show that connection, you are going to attract the people you want.” He also sees it as a marketing tool for BAC contractors who can show the added value of using BAC members.

Mitch Maher, a 20-year member of Local 9 Michigan, was one of the first to take advantage, because he thinks having a college degree can help make a difference. “It never hurts to further your education,” he says. “Knowledge is power.”

The father of two likes the flexibility of learning online at his own pace, which helps “when real life gets in the way,” and is pleased to get credit for his apprenticeship years. His goal is to earn the Construction Supervisor degree.

WCC Apprentice Program Manager Laurie Maroney says the school will help market the BAC University program, and work with potential students to simplify the steps, from getting credits to choosing classes to applying for financial aid. In Michigan, Hipes is spreading the word at Chapter meetings, and held a kickoff event for Locals 1 and 9 MI. A true believer, Hipes plans to enroll himself.


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