Oct 26, 2015Vol. 46, Issue 2

A Perfect Mix

Unprecedented industry support equals 100 percent job placement for concrete industry grads

Recent alumna Jaymi Hills (’15), center, who works as a sales representative for BASF Corporation, advises current students at the Concrete Industry Management (CIM) annual networking event Sept. 24.

Recent alumna Jaymi Hills (’15), center, who works as a sales representative for BASF Corporation, advises current students at the Concrete Industry Management (CIM) annual networking event Sept. 24.

Through even the toughest economic times, Chico State’s Concrete Industry Management (CIM) program has maintained a 100 percent job-placement rate for its graduates since it was established in 2006.

Most, if not all, CIM seniors receive multiple, competitive job offers by the time they celebrate commencement, said Ben Juliano, interim associate dean of the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management (ECC).

 “There’s no doubt it’s because of the high-impact interactions they have—meeting top executives, conducting research, working on company projects, internships,” Juliano said. “Their experience is just amazing.” 

On Sept. 24, eight graduating seniors attended a “speed networking” event, where they each met with about 20 recruiters. The event is sponsored annually by the ECC’s biggest supporters, the Chico State CIM Patrons—a group of 23 board members and more than 70 individual and corporate contributors. The patrons formed 10 years ago to establish the first CIM program in the Western United States at CSU, Chico.

“I think they all see a little part of themselves in us,” said recent alumna Jaymi Hills (BS, Concrete Industry Management, ’15), who secured several job interviews after attending the networking event as graduating senior. This year, she was on the other side of the table, representing BASF Corporation.

To date, the Chico State CIM Patrons, along with the National Steering Committee for Concrete Industry Management, have raised more than $3 million for scholarships, faculty support, equipment, and other department needs, making it the largest industry-college partnership in University history. But they don’t stop there.

The patrons, along with dozens of other top executives and industry leaders, sponsor paid internships and conference travel for students; serve as guest lecturers; mentor and hire Chico State students; and work with ECC staff and faculty to shape the program’s curriculum, including former CIM program coordinator Tanya Komas, who is credited by Juliano and many others as a driving force behind the program’s early and continued success.

“It’s like one big family,” Hills said of the program, the patrons, and the concrete industry as a whole.

Like all CIM majors, the territory sales representative received scholarships funded by the patrons and the industry, which allowed her to become immersed in the concrete community. Hills was active in Chico State’s International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI)—the first student chapter of the prestigious organization—and mingled with CEOs at national conferences and conventions.  

“Within two years, I had relationships with people,” said Hills, who transferred to CSU, Chico from Butte Community College. “To turn around at a conference and see someone I knew or a CEO I had a conversation with that they remembered—that will take you so much further than any other experience.”

CIM Patrons co-chair Dana Davis, center, and Nathan Forrest, right, of the California Nevada Cement Association, talk with graduating CIM seniors about career goals.

CIM Patrons co-chair Dana Davis, center, and Nathan Forrest, right, of the California Nevada Cement Association, talk with graduating CIM seniors about career goals.

Chico State is home to one of only four CIM programs in the country, said CIM Patrons co-chair Doug Guerrero, who is also involved with the national committee. The national and local groups formed in response to a shortage in the industry of college graduates possessing the right mix of concrete science and business management knowledge to fill vacant positions in sales, distribution management, quality control, and production or contract management.

“We didn’t do a very good job of replacing ourselves,” Guerrero said of concrete business owners and executives, many of whom are quickly approaching retirement (if they haven’t already).

All of society’s infrastructure, including highways, dams, buildings, and bridges, is made of concrete, he said. But before the flagship CIM program was established in Tennessee in 1996, there was no one academic major that prepared students to manage the multibillion-dollar industry.

Despite the high demand, financial backing, and in-kind support of dozens of concrete experts, there was no guarantee that Chico State’s “pilot” CIM program would be approved by the CSU Chancellor’s Office as a permanent major.

So when Juliano told Guerrero and the other CIM Patrons in spring 2015 that the Chancellor’s Office had granted it permanent status, everyone was overjoyed. 

“It confirmed that we had been doing things the right way, that there was that dedication,” Juliano said. “Now, we’re moving to the next phase of growing it.” 

To attract more CIM majors, the patrons plan to build partnerships with community colleges around the state, said Guerrero, who believes university-industry partnerships benefit all the businesses, students, and colleges involved. 

As a transfer student, Hills got to start her Chico State education in the field, interning with about seven other students at the CIM Preservation Field School on Alcatraz Island before fall classes began. She says learning the ins and outs of the concrete industry directly from top-level managers gave her a completely different experience than most of her friends.

“Being exposed to what our real jobs are going to look like means we know what we’re getting into, that we know what we want to do,” she said. “If people don’t know about this major, they should take five minutes to learn about it. If anyone knew about the benefits and how it can affect your life, I don’t think they would ever turn it down.”

Advancement writer Nicole Williams may be reached at nfwilliams@csuchico.edu.

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