The American Concrete Institute (ACI) is a leading authority and resource for the concrete industry. Founded back in 1904, the institute has grown to include over 95 chapters, 110 student chapters, and nearly 20,000 members across 120 countries.
The American Concrete Institute (ACI) aims to guide and assist any individual or organization involved in concrete design, construction, and related materials. The nonprofit develops and distributes consensus-based standards, technical resources, educational programs, training programs, and certification programs.
The institute offers a range of certification programs that provide members with the credentials needed to build quality structures. These certifications are the industry standard and many international, national, and local business codes require ACI Certified workers on a jobsite. Business in Focus sat down with ACI’s Managing Director of Certification, John W. Nehasil, to learn about the importance of certification and how it benefits the industry.
Maintaining proper certification is paramount no matter what the project. “Concrete construction personnel provide a critical link between projects as specified and projects as constructed,” Mr. Nehasil explains. “These individuals test the materials used in the project, inspect the project, and build the project. In many areas, certification and related education is the only method available to the concrete industry to produce qualified workers, and the best way to identify them in bid packages and on jobsites.”
Certification benefits everyone. On the individual level, it gives workers the information they need about their equipment and materials and prevents mistakes, poor practices, and inefficiency. Companies come out ahead because certified employees will be able to succeed on the job. “Certification is an independent attestation that an individual has the necessary knowledge and skill to perform a specific set of responsibilities. This can lead to advancement of the worker and more employment opportunities for the company.”
The advantages extend to the industry as a whole. “Fluctuations in the economy affect the job market,” Mr. Nehasil says. “As seen with the recession several years ago, many individuals left the construction industry due to fewer employment opportunities, and now that the economy is rebounding, many of the individuals that left found employment in other industries and are not coming back. Organizations offering education and certification are in the best position to qualify the incoming workforce.”
The public benefits from certification as well. “Certified individuals have a better grasp of how their work affects the project,” Mr. Nehasil says. “Better and more consistent materials testing contributes to confidence that proper materials were ultimately used in the project; proper handling of the concrete and proper inspection ensure that those materials were used properly to achieve a safe structure from a good design.”
ACI brings in industry experts to standardize processes and develop certification programs. The institute offers a full range of certification programs including adhesive anchor installation, concrete testing, aggregate testing, concrete flatwork finishing, concrete quality management, tilt-up concrete construction, shotcrete construction, and masonry testing. Regardless of the specific program, “the overall goal of ACI Certification is to provide programs by which the concrete construction industry can effectively and accurately identify individuals with the knowledge and skills to perform specific duties within the concrete construction industry,” Mr. Nehasil says.
The Adhesive Anchor Installer and Adhesive Anchor Installation Inspector programs are two important programs that have just been developed over the last five years. “The Installer program was developed as a direct result of the Boston Central Artery Project (Big Dig) tunnel ceiling failure in 2006 that resulted in a fatality.” This program educates participants on the equipment, materials, and procedures needed to install cartridge-type chemical anchors and prepares them for challenges they are likely to encounter during the build. The Inspector program qualifies individuals who demonstrate the knowledge needed to provide proper oversight of the installation process.
ACI developed its first certification program almost 40 years ago. “In the late 1970s, concrete producers saw ACI as the most suitable independent third-party organization to develop and offer a national, standardized program to improve the testing of fresh concrete,” Mr. Nehasil says. “This improvement was needed as it was observed that good concrete was being routinely rejected because incorrect testing procedures were resulting in poor test results.”
ACI launched its certification program in 1981 as a voluntary program. The concept caught on fast, and in the mid-1980s, ACI’s Concrete Field Testing Technician – Grade I certification program became a required qualification in the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard Specification for Ready-Mixed Concrete, C 94. “That citation caused a surge in certification volume and provided ACI with the resources and credibility needed to expand its certification operations.”
Programs for Flatwork Finishers and Concrete Construction Inspectors followed soon after. Laboratory Testing Technician programs launched in the late 1980s. “Since that time, not only has ACI added more programs, but other industry organizations, witnessing the success of ACI’s Certification programs, developed certification programs for their areas of the industry leveraging their expertise.”
ACI is eager to continue its certification work, despite some challenges. “There has been some pushback from some segments of the industry against the proliferation of personnel certification programs over the past 10 to 15 years, but in many cases it is undeniable that the programs are needed,” Mr. Nehasil says. “We will most likely maintain an interest in developing and offering niche-type programs, but will also look more closely at developing educational programs first, and determine later if a certification program is needed.”
In addition, the institute plans to give the global industry better access to certification. “ACI is also becoming increasingly more international in its constituency and reach. The programs we have developed thus far have been based primarily on U.S.-centric technical resources, and even when translated into different languages, are not completely relevant in other countries/regions which often don’t have the infrastructure to support those standards. We do expect to develop better methods to address this and increase our relevance internationally; there’s no denying that we could have a very positive impact in places that up until now we could not adequately assist.”
Certification is just one critical service that ACI provides to the concrete industry. The institute also delivers a range of educational opportunities. ACI produces hundreds of documents to help improve the design, construction, maintenance, and repair of concrete structures, many of which are available online for free. Free Online Educational Presentations cover a variety of subjects, including adhesive anchors, mixture proportioning, moisture in concrete slabs, and repair.
ACI University provides online professional education to give participants continuing education credits. Some of these courses are related to certification programs, while others teach important information and skills without specifically preparing participants for certification. ACI’s monthly webinars are given by industry experts and cover a range of timely concrete topics. The institute releases several new webinars every year.
For a more personal option, ACI offers educational seminars that can be tailored to an organization’s needs. Potential topics cover everything from structural design and repair to troubleshooting and slabs-on-ground.
As well, the institute’s conventions provide networking opportunities while also helping to educate and elevate the industry. The goal for each event is to improve the design, construction, maintenance, and repair of concrete structures. Industry insiders get a chance to discuss the latest trends and topics while learning about the newest concrete industry codes, specifications, and guides. ACI’s next convention will be held in Anaheim, California from October 15th to October 19th 2017.
ACI has been a leading concrete authority for over a century – and the institute shows no signs of slowing down. With new certifications in the pipeline and an eye on new, international opportunities, ACI is well placed to continue advancing the industry around the world.