by Pierre G. Villere
My late business partner Bill Allen was an institution in the ready mixed concrete industry, and I was fortunate to spend 15 years working beside him and learning from a master. Industry education was of utmost importance to Bill, and he felt that because of our firm’s success, we had an obligation to give back, constantly teaching our industry how to improve financial performance, operations and safety through education.
So it came as no surprise to me when Bill became an active and ardent supporter of the Concrete Industry Management education curriculum going back to its earliest days. The curriculum was born as a result of the Ready Mixed Concrete 2000 movement, which included education as one of its primary initiatives to improve the concrete industry. Led by the RMC 2000 initiative, a group of industry champions approached the administration at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, with the idea of creating a bachelor’s degree dedicated to the development of managers for the concrete industry.
Officials at MTSU embraced the idea, contingent on the concrete industry assisting in the development of the curriculum and making a long-term commitment to stay involved and support the program. Out of this effort came the very first and only four-year Bachelor of Science degree program in Concrete Industry Management, or “CIM,” which enrolled its first two students at MTSU in 1996. The popularity of the program has taken off, with more than 1,300 graduates since its inception, and approximately 475 students currently pursuing degrees.
The program was developed to address the need for people with enhanced technical, communication and management skills specifically suited for the concrete industry. The individuals graduating from this program have the skills necessary to meet the growing demands of the changing concrete industry, and the program gives students many advantages, including internships that provide exposure to the industry early in their careers. Since its founding, the curriculum has expanded to three other campuses around the country, including California State University, Chico; New Jersey Institute of Technology; and, Texas State University.
In support of this industry effort, the World of Concrete annually invites students from the program’s four campuses to the Weatherton Award Presentation Competition, and the student who is judged to have prepared the best presentation will win the award. The award was established in honor of “Big Bob” Weatherton, who had been closely associated with the founding of the World of Concrete, and was named an industry legend just a year before he died in 2016. Weatherton is best remembered for his work in the concrete pump industry, having invented the articulating boom truck for concrete pumps, which allowed models with long reaches to travel easily to jobsites. Weatherton was a catalyst of change supporting concrete producers, engineers, and specifiers, and the World of Concrete believes that his contribution will serve as an example to CIM students.
The presentations for the competition must show how a student’s research activities, internships, or capstone coursework has reinforced CIM’s educational objectives. The presentation must reflect the student’s individual contribution, and how the lessons learned in the endeavor will impact on his or her contribution to a concrete industry career. Past presentations often cover three types of student activity in the CIM program, including student/faculty research projects, providing business insights on how the projects will contribute to economic, safety, and/or market development of the concrete industry; internships, and on how the tasks assigned during their internship related to their program studies; and, senior capstone presentations, with a focus on the conclusions developed during the coursework of their capstone class that takes place in their junior or senior year.
This award salutes the best-of-the-best of the bright young talents studying to become a part of our robust industry, and is a much-deserved recognition. I am proud to be a judge at this year’s competition. When you are attending the World of Concrete, be sure to put the Weatherton Award Competition on your list of must-see events.
Pierre G. Villere serves as president and senior managing partner of Allen-Villere Partners, an investment banking firm with a national practice in the construction materials industry that specializes in mergers & acquisitions. He has a career spanning almost five decades, and volunteers his time to educating the industry as a regular columnist in publications and through presentations at numerous industry events. Contact Pierre via email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter – @allenvillere.