Future Technician Preparation - Education Systems

A classic process control first step procedure is to identify the forcing functions in play and subsequently characterizing the corresponding response functions. This is not an easy task for processes worth controlling and the preparation of future technicians that must work with new technologies in the workspace is an excellent example of this type of situation. For two-year community college programs that focus on technician preparation, three forcing functions immediately come to mind: the education system; the teaching approach; and faculty professional development needs. Our Future of Work Series offering this year address each of these items as a contributing effort for the NSF-ATE funded project (DUE 1839567) with its goal to provide insight and recommendations related to future of work issues that impact two-year college technician educations programs.  Since baseball season is just around the corner, using the Abbott and Costello routine (January Blog) as the thread for these forcing function presentations seems appropriate, useful, and, hopefully, a bit entertaining. Thus, let's begin with last month's candidate for "Who's on First?"

Who is going to prepare the future technician?  Not at the individual nor a particular entity level but at an organizational stage, the education system(s), the next level up. The components of this system are well known. Post-secondary technician education will remain within the domain of the community college, technical college, registered apprenticeship program, industry related certificate organization, training for profit, “on the job training” in the workplace, and industry "in-house" training operation providers. However, the expectations of technicians as driven by the skills and knowledge base for involvement in new technology clearly indicate that the days these components can satisfy future of work driven education issues and operate in isolation are numbered.

The time a future technician invests in the educational system to acquire the knowledge and skills needed is now a pointed issue. The patchwork approach used today does produces skilled technicians, but the quilts student's stitch that advertise the acquisition of those skills along the way also broadcasts the inefficient use of their education investment. The degrees of freedom (to just play in their own sandbox) these post-secondary technical education mechanisms possess will have to be dove tailed to contribute to a strategy for effective and efficient creation of new technicians at the national level.  A probe into what that dove tailing entails is a topic for a later blog. Right now, let’s start to generate some discussion about the education system itself.         

There are three systems to be considered: The U.S., an interesting Canadian experiment, and the European Union (EU) approaches.   The EU philosophy on technical education, the Bologna Process, is the target of this month’s discussion.  It has been maturing since its inception, Bologna Accord, in 1999.  It is classic and new in the same breath.  It distributes students across three main “cycles” that verbally correspond to the U.S. STEM related bachelor, master, and doctoral or equivalent programs, however it identifies "intermediate or short-cycle" qualifications as an integral part of the process.

Discussions about "'short-cycle" qualifications have been an integral part of the Bologna Process from its early stage with a focus on whether and how shorter higher education could be linked to first-cycle qualifications (the bachelor's degree). The EU higher education level descriptors known as Dublin Descriptors (2005) explicitly reference to "short-cycle" qualifications within or linked to the first "cycle" education.  By 2016/17 "short-cycle" programs are considered part of the overarching qualifications framework as defined through the European Higher Education Area (QF-EHEA) protocols and half of the countries within the EHEA system follow the guidelines and recommendation associated with QF-EHEA and the Dublin Descriptors related to "short-cycle" education.

Countries that follow these "short-cycle" protocols are also required to ensure graduates progress to the next cycle of higher education (bachelor programs). Countries are not obliged to adopt these protocols, but the EU also has guidelines for "short-cycle tertiary" (ISCED 5) training not recognized as higher education. In Slovenia, for example, tertiary education consists of short-cycle higher vocational education regulated by the Higher Vocational Education Act which categories short-cycle vocational higher education separate from the EU three level (bachelor, master, and doctorial) categories. The ISCED 5 also covers advanced years of upper secondary vocational training. For example, Austria, includes the fourth and the fifth year of upper secondary vocational studies.

In summary, the EU now has a cross member nation education system with operational objectives that are equally valuable for an interstate approach to technician preparation in the U.S. The major points of these objectives that pertinent to our technicians include: the promotion of student mobility among different programs; and the development of a quality-assurance process and governing body to ensure standard qualifications and quality across all states.

Florida has a two-year Engineering Technology degree program that executes these objectives and represents a model for national adaption. Florida is also capitalizing on the new Perkins V drive to bring rigor and reporting into its funding domain. Integrating both the ATE driven platform programs and the federal funding for Perkins supported programs is an opportunity at hand. However, there is still the issue of overall time in the education system that is included in the experimental approach being explored in Canada.

That last point is a discussion item for next month since it is now time to close and emphasize, as you might expect, that "The work to do starts with you".  Remember that our motivation for this series has a twofold intent.  One is for you the other is for us.  First new technology in the workplace does generate different expectations for the technician workforce and who does the technician preparation really is important to you.  Second, engaging people interested in the development of the nation's technician workforce into the conversation as to how NSF can facilitate lowering the impact of that skills gap is important to us. NSF-ATE is listening and can put its resources into action in response to what it hears.  Now is the time and opportunity to speak up. Think about the ideas outlined above and how they might be implemented in the U.S. Contact us. Send us your thoughts at gilbert@usf.edu.

National Correspondent for Qualifications Frameworks (QF=EHEA): https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regexpert/index.cfm?do=groupDetail.groupDetailDoc&id=28734&no=15

Review of Bologna Tools: http://www.gmacbolognaproject.com/

Dublin Discriptors:https://ec.europa.eu/education/ects/users-guide/glossary_en.htm

International Standard Classification of Education:

No comments :

Post a Comment