First Word: Time for learning

The first quarter of 2008 is a great time to reward key employees (and yourself) with a trip to an industry trade show. Thanks to the ever-expanding educational opportunities at these events, sending managers to a show can serve not only as a pat on the back for a job well done, but as a strategic investment in your company’s future. It’s difficult to place a price tag on the knowledge you and your employees can glean from the numerous seminars, conferences and certification programs our industry offers.

Deciding which show to attend could be your toughest task. Our industry’s largest show in this country, ConExpo-Con/Agg, held every three years, will take place March 11-15 and includes more than 120 educational sessions. World of Concrete will hold 150 sessions January 21-25, the Work Truck Show will feature more than 30 educational seminars February 25-27 and the CGA Excavation Safety Conference and Expo will host 50 instructional sessions March 25-27.

To help narrow your choices, here is a sampling of programs, categorized by topic, you might find most useful:

  • Management training – Recently promoted supervisors will benefit from Survival Tips for Supervisors, a ConExpo-ConAgg course that explains how to deal with new responsibilities, coach former “teammates” and communicate with the boss. World of Concrete’s Leadership and Management track includes courses in leadership basics, accountability, time management and field leader skills.
  • Green construction – As concern for the environment grows, so does demand for sustainable, environmentally friendly construction practices and materials. Several seminars offer advice for taking advantage of this trend. World of Concrete is launching an educational track called Green Building, which consists of six sessions focusing on topics such as pervious concrete. ConExpo-Con/Agg’s Recycling track addresses the latest research in concrete and asphalt recycling, including how major road contractors are using recycled material; rubber-modified asphalt made from scrap tires; and managing soil and liquid waste at construction sites.
  • Maintenance – Your employees with at least five years of equipment management or maintenance experience can take the Certified Equipment Manager study course and exam at ConExpo. The show’s Equipment Management track consists of 16 sessions, including courses in electrical troubleshooting, cooling system maintenance for Tier 3 engines and how to hedge fuel costs. A free program called Best Practices for Small Fleet Management will show you how to save 2 to 5 percent annually on fleet maintenance.
  • Safety – An OSHA 10-hour construction safety course will be conducted during World of Concrete. The Safety and Risk Management track includes classes in fall protection, excavation and concrete construction safety.
  • Technology – If you and your managers need to brush up on the latest construction tools and methods, you’ll have plenty of chances. ConExpo-Con/Agg offers seminars in global positioning systems; estimating, bidding and project management software; fast-track paving; and PC-based equipment operator training. ConExpo-ConAgg and the Work Truck Show will host classes in telematics.

For complete education program schedules, go to;;; and

I hope you find time to attend one of these events. Since taking many employees with you might not be feasible, consider setting up an incentive plan that allows for a certain number to attend each year. Providing continuing education promotes employee retention and lets workers know how much you value them.