How could this help the industry?
By Jeff Buczkiewicz
When the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) considered the idea of certifying mason contractors, there were many who were very skeptical of the idea. However, after careful thought and consideration, the Board decided that not only was certification the correct move for the industry, but without it, the industry would irresponsibly be ignoring the needs of our consumers.
The MCAA has been working in assessing needs of the design community for many years. Through small group market assessment meetings with designers to educational offerings the MCAA has provided, our customers have had an overriding theme that surfaced – the blindness of the selection process. This important piece of the project was being selected in many cases without pre-qualifying whether a contractor was qualified to complete a project and was simply being selected on low bid. What was even more interesting to the MCAA was that the contractors also were concerned about this practice. Many of our member firms all too often would see a project be low bid by either a start-up contractor or a contractor whose numbers were way off the rest of the field. In many of these cases, there was an underlying reason and that reason was the contractor was unqualified to do the work, much less bid on the work to begin with.
As an industry, we would see that these cases often would lead not only to that contractor taking a hit during and after the project (if they survived), but the entire industry would suffer because ultimately the consumer and design community would have a bad experience and impression of masonry. Quality of work has become the foundation for the new certification program the MCAA is offering.
The certification program has several goals. The first and foremost goal is Masonry Quality. The only course that is specifically required for the certification program is a program called the Masonry Quality Institute (MQI). Any contractor that will become certified will have had to complete this program. It was developed by the MCAA in cooperation with a consulting firm that specializes in quality issues. The program is a 16-hour, two-day course that stresses the importance of a quality masonry job from pre-planning all the way through the finish and follow-up of the project. The goal of the seminar is to have each participant strive for excellence in customer satisfaction.
There are four other disciplines associated with certification: Code and Standard knowledge, Safety understanding, Ethics and Business Practice, Bidding Practices and Masonry Product knowledge. Each discipline requires a certain amount of time spent on them in order to achieve the right to sit for the certification exam. The total education hours required to sit for the exam is 100 hours for the primary of the company and a minimum of 15 hours for 100 percent of the supervisory staff of the company. Once these goals are achieved, the primary then must sit for a 100-question test developed by the certification committee. Primaries must score an 80 percent or better on the test in order to be certified. Recertification would occur every three years and the primary must attain 75 continuing education hours in that three-year period to maintain his or her certification.
The MCAA plans to offer the first certification test in June of 2008. The test date and place have yet to be determined. The goal is to have a sizable number of contractors certified by the end of the year 2009. The success of the program will be the willingness of the design and construction customer communities specifying and then requiring their masons to be certified. Anything less would expose them to potentially unqualified contractors and potential problems on a job. Certification will become a tool for the design community to weed out potential problems before they happen. It also will present the design community with an opportunity to rest assured that the contractor selected is a contractor that can complete the job effectively.
The certification process will take some time for many contractors to achieve and therefore, the MCAA will not proactively promote the utilization of only certified contractors until the pool is large enough for designers to have competitive bidding. That is not to say that the design community should not seek out certified contractors (as they should since, these contractors have gone the extra step to show their commitment to quality craftsmanship and high business ethics) before there is a large pool of certified contractors. Certified contractors will have made a serious commitment to quality and the industry as a whole and consumers should expect more from certified contractors. That does not mean that there will never be an issue on a job site with a certified contractor, but it does mean you should expect a certain type of cooperation and partnership in correcting and making good on any issues on the job.
All certifications are revocable, and there will certainly be incentive for contractors to maintain their good standing. The MCAA looks forward to rolling out the program later this year and asks for the cooperation of all designers and consumers in the years to come by specifically requiring a certified contractor on their masonry jobs. The success of the program will depend on the consumer demand. For more information on the certification program, please feel free to contact the MCAA at 800.536.2225, or check out our website at www.masoncontractors.org.
Jeff Buczkiewicz is executive director of the Mason Contractors Association of America.