VAA Virginia Asphalt Fall/Winter 2022

32 FALL /WINTER 2022 VECAT CONTINUES TO EVOLVE Offering Training Classes in 2023 In 2015, the Virginia Asphalt Association (VAA) partnered with Germanna Community College (GCC) to establish the Virginia Education Center for Asphalt Technology (VECAT), the first program of its kind available in Virginia. From its inception, VECAT’s goal was to offer three programmatic pathways, including Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Materials Certification School (MCS) certification, apprenticeship, and associate degrees. This was certainly a formidable goal, but members of the VAA and GCC were committed to making these programs a reality. Soon after the partnership was formed, they submitted a workforce development grant proposal to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and were awarded $200,000 through the Governor’s Competition for Talent Solutions to establish VECAT. With matching funds from the founding partners, VAA and VDOT professionals began overhauling MCS courses related to asphalt, totaling seven classes revised and transferred to VECAT before 2017. Three additional credentialing classes were then developed and offered in the years that followed. While the VECAT’s primary focus was delivering MCS credentialing classes required by VDOT, it soon became clear that teaching a core understanding of and skills related to asphalt was also essential. Since not all subject areas and credentialing classes could be migrated into educational courses at once, VECAT staff agreed in 2022 to focus on courses for asphalt plant technicians and asphalt mix design technicians. The Purpose and Process Behind VECAT’s Two New Courses VECAT will launch a five-week class starting in January 2023 to prepare Asphalt Mix Design Technicians. Students will learn the fundamentals of mix design, starting with aggregates and ending with performance index lab testing. Various industry instructors will utilize a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on application. Between weeks, students will be required to complete homework in their company lab to reinforce what they learned in class. “Students not only learn by watching but by doing,” says VAA Director Mike Dudley. “By having students understand the test procedures, learning what the test results mean, and performing them in front of VECAT instructors, they will better handle the mix design process. The homework will build upon what they have learned.” After the five-week course, students can submit the designed mixes they have worked on to VDOT for approval. As VAA Vice President David Lee explains, “Upon successful completion of the certification process, the mix designs can be submitted to the districts for approval based on SUPERPAVE™ and balanced mix design specifications.” While the intended outcome is for students to obtain VDOT Asphalt Mix Designer accreditation, the primary goal of the class is for students to learn the mix design process. Following the course for asphalt mix design, the asphalt plant technician class will begin in mid-February 2023 in the same format. Students will learn the operations of an asphalt plant and lab testing procedures required by VDOT specifications. Like the mix design class, industry experts will lead students through different topics. The course will also include a field trip to a local asphalt plant and lab facility. Upon completing the class, students will have earned an Asphalt Plant Technician Level I and Level II credential. Why This Format The format of these VECAT courses is a marked departure from traditional training, in which classes are concentrated over several long days of learning. Students arrive the night before classes start, spend all day in a classroom or lab, go back to their room and the cycle repeats until the course is completed. While students may receive materials, how much do they actually learn and retain? VAA President Trenton Clark shares his take on this form of training, explaining that “many of us have delivered or attended traditional training classes. By the end of the second day, I am exhausted. I have taught various classes for over twenty years and what I have Virginia Asphalt Association President Trenton Clark teaches Slurry Surfacing class