Improving Grant Outcomes and Sustaining Initiatives

By Christy Montgomery-Jones and Todd Cohen, Maher & Maher

For colleges building industry-aligned career pathways, the Competency Model Clearinghouse (CMC) is a great place to start. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Competency Clearinghouse provides a framework to identify the skills and competencies required within multiple industries and a range of positions, from entry-level to advanced.

Several TAACCCT colleges used the CMC as they built their programs, including two Michigan-based Trade Adjustment Assistance and Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant projects.

The Michigan Coalition for Advanced Manufacturing (M-CAM) and the Multi-State Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (M-SAMC) used ETA’s Advanced Manufacturing (AM) Competency Model as a conceptual framework in developing and redesigning curricula. After grant funding ended, member colleges have continued to use the models as foundational tools to prepare students to align with the competencies that employers seek in their workforce.

Under its TAACCCT grant, the eight Michigan community colleges in M-CAM used ETA’s AM Competency Model to develop training programs in CNC/Manufacturing/Machining, Multi-Skill/Mechatronics, Welding, and Production Operations, all of which embed industry-recognized national credentials. As a result of their consultations with industry associations, local and national employers, and government entities, the colleges developed the M-CAM Stackable Credential Model, derived from Tiers 1-3 of the AM Competency Model.

After TAACCCT grant support ended in September 2017, Macomb Community College, the lead institution for M-CAM, has continued to use the AM Competency Model as a conceptual framework in fine tuning the Stackable Credential Model for its own students. For example, in regards to the Foundational Skills needed in math for advanced manufacturing occupations, Macomb found that many of its prospective students did not have the educational background and confidence needed to succeed in college-level math. In response, the college developed and piloted a remedial math course for students prior to assessment for entry into the program. This resulted in a 100 percent success rate for the required math assessment.

Under its TAACCCT grant, M-SAMC worked with 13 colleges in ten states to transform manufacturing education in their institutions. One of the key strategies to accomplish this goal was the use of Performance-Based Objectives (PBOs) to develop new and modified industry-driven manufacturing curricula and credentials. M-SAMC collaborated with employer partners to review the curriculum for launch training for new vehicles, which required refreshed tooling in all the automotive plants. This generated the development of its first set of PBOs under the grant, specifically the right competencies needed for the new equipment associated with the new vehicles. In this way, the consortium used the PBOs to develop customized competency-based training to meet the specific needs of employer partners.

The PBO development process reflected many of the competencies in the AM Competency Model. As a result of their deliberations with partners about industry needs, the colleges incorporated some of the higher-tier competencies at the beginning of their instructional programs.