Robert Arnold is the National Director of Apprenticeship and Training at The International Masonry Training and Education Foundation (IMTEF) and has worked in masonry since 1978. He agreed to share his insight on the annual Instructor Certification Program (ICP). Here's our conversation.
Q: Tell me about the Instructor Certification Program (ICP). What is it?
A: The ICP is a program that IMI puts together to bring all the instructors from the local training centers together. The program is designed to teach them how to present the different courses that they have to teach back at their local centers. The instructors are experienced journeymen— subject matter experts in their craft— but have not had any teaching experience. They learn the basics of how to give presentations, how to create curriculum. Anything from start to finish. Everything that they need to know to train their students.
Q: What does the ICP prepare instructors to do?
A: Local union instructors provide training courses to apprentices and ongoing education for union workers. These courses, the amount of training required for apprentices and on-going education requirements varies from place to place, but overall these training opportunities are what make union workers stand out. The instructors will teach a variety of important topics, from building skills to safety, and from tools to foreman training.
Q: How does the ICP work?
A: The program is a total of 200 hours. Each year the instructors come to IMI’s National Training Facility in Bowie, MD for an intensive week of training in the classroom and hands-on instruction. With 40 hours of training each year, the entire program can be completed in 5 years. Each year the courses get harder and build on new skills to help the instructors grow into the teacher role. The courses are taught by a variety of instructors, including outside professors from the University of Maryland. Importantly this experience brings instructors from across the country together to learn from each other. They get to talk about how they are doing things and improve what they are offering their students.
Q: What is the most popular course included in the ICP?
A: Teaching Unionism is probably the most popular course. It starts out with the history of all unions, but specifically the history of the BAC 1for the past 50 years. This course follows the history of the union starting out in Philadelphia and Baltimore, with the workers trying to get better wages and work fewer hours. They were working 12-14 hours, and eventually settled on a 10 hour day; now it's an 8 hour day. The course covers the entire history, including the strikes that happened throughout the 40's and 50's, all the way to where we are today.
Q: How has the ICP changed over the years?
A: The training programs have become more focused. The instructors are given more classroom learning opportunities and are focused on their specific craft. The instruction is very focused on how to teach. The instructors are given the key principles and then they have to demonstrate what they have learned by actually getting up in front of the class and teaching the content.
Q: How will ICP evolve in the future?
A: Right now, we spend time teaching the instructors how to create their own curriculum from varios materials. But we are currently working on a new curriculum for our trades. The ICP of the future will teach the instructors how to teach the curriculum that we are creating. This will be a much better use of their time, they will be able to share their expertise rather than trying to learn how to be curriculum writers.
Q: What is the ICP Academy?
A: The ICP Academy is a new program that has not launched yet. It will be a way for our certified instructors (graduates of ICP) to maintain and grow their skills through on-going training and educational programs. We will start this program with graduate students that will come back and learn about the new curriculum and learn what’s new. This is important because things change so quickly, but once instructors become certified, we didn’t have opportunities for them to come back to us to stay on top of the latest advances in their craft.
Q: How does ICP improve union training as a whole?
A. In the long run, training is at the heart of what makes a union job a success. The instructors are taught the proper procedures and installation techniques. They in turn teach the apprentices and union workers. Those workers are then more skilled and able to turn out a better end product. Contractors then make more money on a better product. It just makes everything a success in the long run.