Student Certification Keeps
the Industry Strong
Local chapters are equipping college students to hit the ground running
www.concreteinternational.com | Ci | NOVEMBER 2019 53
ACI chapters are finding that by hosting ACI
certification programs for students, they can help
build up the next generation of industry
professionals—and local membership. Students benefit by
obtaining the experience needed to land internships and jobs.
Companies benefit from a larger pool of knowledgeable
candidates to choose from—and fewer costs associated with
training new employees and getting them certified. Chapters
benefit by having more students exposed to ACI and engaged
in chapter activities.
Perhaps most important, the industry benefits by gaining an
increased number of ACI-certified young professionals who
can complete work to the highest standards.
“One industry-wide concern is safety and preventing the
failure of concrete structures,” says Arash Rahmatian, Faculty
Advisor at the University of Houston – Downtown (UHD)
and a member of the Houston Chapter – ACI. “We have to
make sure people in construction know how to achieve quality
in concrete structures. Providing certification helps improve
quality and safeguards civilians.”
The key to launching a successful student certification
program is to find and work with champions at the university
level. In some cases, proactive professors are easy to identify
because they are the ones requesting such programs.
Partnering with University Staff
The Houston Chapter – ACI is one shining example of how
all parties benefit from student certification. The chapter
offers three ACI certifications through UHD: Concrete Field
Testing Technician – Grade I, Concrete Strength Testing
Technician, and, most recently, Concrete Flatwork Finisher.
“To provide an important service like certification to
students is a chance we didn’t want to pass up,” says Mark
Dornak of Terracon. Dornak is also the Houston Chapter – ACI
Certification Committee Chair and Examiner who coordinates
the student exams. “More than anything, it gives students
real-world, hands-on experience. They’re able to interact with
examiners and supplemental examiners from different
concrete backgrounds, so they can learn about what’s really
going on in the field,” Dornak adds.
In return, the Houston Chapter – ACI sees more students
participating in ACI student chapters, student competitions,
and research projects. “Our students also serve as volunteers
for chapter workshops and seminars,” says UHD’s Rahmatian.
“And this year, I was able to take 14 students to the ACI
convention in Québec City, which was only possible with the
support of the Houston Chapter – ACI and internal grants.”
The partnership began in 2015 when Rahmatian, a Houston
Chapter – ACI Board member, asked the chapter’s
Certification Committee to consider hosting certification
through his offered courses. He had realized when he began
teaching at UHD a year earlier that the students were at a
disadvantage without certification. “Students did not have
sufficient practical knowledge, which limited their chances of
getting the types of internships that would help them gain
more experience. Without that experience, they also had a
hard time getting job offers after graduation.”
“When presented with the opportunity to certify students,
we were in 100%,” says Dornak. Jacob Borgerson of WJE Inc.,
and then-Chapter President, spearheaded the endeavor, with
the chapter providing a 50% discount to students along with
an annual grant to the student chapter for travel to
conventions. To cover the remaining costs, Rahmatian applied
for grants both through the university and external sources.
(This year, Rahmatian was able to secure funding to provide
safety boots to participating students.)
Rahmatian first embedded ACI Concrete Field Testing
Technician – Grade I certification in his reinforced
concrete design course, and in 2016 he embedded ACI
Concrete Laboratory Strength Testing Technician
certification in his mechanics of materials course.
Borgerson, now the Houston Chapter – ACI’s Student
Committee Chair, volunteered to give technical presentations
and lectures during classes. As student interest grew,
Borgerson also provided mock exams.
In addition, says Dornak, the Houston Chapter – ACI
recently offered UHD students ACI Concrete Flatwork
Finisher certification at no cost to them. David Buzzelli of
A&M Concrete, Houston Chapter – ACI Past President,
volunteered to administer a review session.
In the past, Argos Ready Mix, Houston, made their
facilities and staff (specifically, Daniel McPheeters) available