The single most important tool anyone has is their brain. To make that tool work at its greatest efficiency, it needs knowledge and training. The best source for that in our industry is the American Concrete Institute (ACI). Over the last few years, ACI’s educational programs have undergone revolutionary changes, moving from books and live seminars to web-based programs available to anyone, any time. For spearheading this transformation, we are recognizing Educational Activities Committee (EAC) Chair Frances Griffith as one of the Most Influential People in the Concrete Industry in 2018.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” she insists. “We had a brainstorming activity around the new strategic plan in the meeting right before I became chair in fall 2014. Who wouldn’t love taking over when a committee’s just listed everything it would like to do?! All these great ideas got plopped into my lap.”

She wasted no time implementing them by collecting all online learning under ACI University, a cornucopia that touches nearly every industry topic. “We thought many of the ideas would fit nicely under this umbrella. We developed a new logo and an app and introduced the whole thing at World of Concrete 2015.” The committee also developed a certificate program, a series of online classes to earn a digital badge attesting to expertise in topics like anchorage design and concrete construction fundamentals.

Griffith’s role as associate director for the Center for Training Transportation Professionals at the University of Arkansas brought her to ACI and especially to the education and certification committees. “We are a little bubble program under the department of civil engineering, which has a contract with the Arkansas DOT to provide training.” The program includes ACI certification in field testing and strength testing.

Are we losing something by not having face-to-face educational efforts and relying on online education?

“There’s nothing better than being able to pick up the phone and talk with someone you’ve met at a meeting. We lose some of that but are able to touch many more people. I don’t know where the balance falls, but I hope the gains are outweighing the losses.”

Griffith’s vision for the future is expansive and aggressive. “I’d like an educational product for every ACI technical document because that would reflect the thoughts and meanings behind all the words. At ACI’s last convention, we went to some technical committees and told them about all the programs they could develop—online CEUs, webinars, what’s under ACI University for them to use.”

ACI has begun relying more on its staff to develop educational offerings. “Members still want to volunteer, but we want that time to be productive, making something happen.” As long as ACI has leaders like Griffith, things will continue to happen.

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