Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of feature articles about the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Centers. ATE Centers are all great examples of how 2-year colleges have taken a leadership role in partnering with colleges and universities, K-12, business and industry and government agencies “to design and carry out model workforce development initiatives.” ATE Centers are important catalysts for creating large-scale changes to courses and programs offered by a good number of varied educational institutions and organizations in order to meet new standards of modern technologies and employer need, for recruiting underrepresented populations of teens and adults for STEM careers, and for developing teaching and learning environments that have a direct benefit to advanced technology employees and employers.
The word TIME in this article is an acronym for Technology and Innovation in Manufacturing and Engineering, which is what the NSF-funded TIME Center is about on many levels of importance in the field of advanced manufacturing technologies. The TIME Center exists primarily for the benefit of the state of Maryland, but it is also noted as having helped many people learn the skills necessary to find decent manufacturing jobs along the entire Atlantic coastline.
“We have made a lot of progress in helping to improve the workforce in manufacturing,” says Ken Burch, TIME Center director. The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) is the lead institution for this ATE Center. Its partners and collaborators include six community colleges and four universities located throughout Maryland; eight regional and state manufacturing associations; and numerous international, national and local companies with offices in Maryland. As noted on its website, the TIME Center also works closely with the Maryland State Department of Education and secondary schools “to ensure that curricula, courses, skills standards, and proficiency levels are adequate to meet the needs of higher education and manufacturing employees.”
Improving the Pipeline of High School Students Into Automated Technology Programs
The TIME Center officially launched in October 2003 with an initial four-year $3 million NSF grant, and it has been funded until June 2013 through two NSF continuing grants. One of the TIME Center’s more recent initiatives, You and Improved, deals with improving the pipeline of high school graduates into CCBC’s four automated technology programs in engineering technology, electronics, computer aided design and drafting, and computer assisted machining and manufacturing.
The promotional tag line for You and Improved is “Enter the New World of Automated Technology.” Burch says that part of the goal of this initiative is to change young people’s minds about outdated yet still commonplace images of the manufacturing world. “The wrong image [of a manufacturing company employee] is of this person who comes home from work with grease from head to toe and needs at least three showers to get clean before dinner,” he says, jokingly. “Today’s manufacturing environments are very clean; they have moved to automated production facilities. There are careers in manufacturing that pay very well if you can get the training. All we are trying to do is show high school students that there are options that can lead to a very viable career.”
In addition to promoting the four automated technology programs, the TIME Center, in collaboration with Baltimore County Public Schools, includes a lesson plan, for high school teachers in technology education classes at 26 schools, that is designed to enable these teachers to introduce and chart student progress toward related career pathways.
After a period devoted to tracking students who enroll in the four CCBC automated technology programs promoted via You and Improved, the other TIME Center community college partners will utilize the results to effectively implement the same program with high schools in their geographical areas throughout Maryland.
As noted in a recently published book sponsored by NSF titled “Career Pathways for STEM Technicians,” by Dan Hull, You and Improved is in line with one of the overall goals of the NSF ATE Centers program to create “articulated educational pathways for potential technicians from high schools to technical programs in community and technical colleges.”
Building Meaningful Curricula at the Associate Degree Level
Another overall NSF ATE Centers program goal has a strong focus on assuring that associate degree programs help students acquire core skills and knowledge through hands-on experiences and relevant and improved courses and programs geared toward getting students employed “and immediately useful to business and industry.” The TIME Center has achieved this goal through its working partnerships with Maryland community colleges, along with the management of DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) processes with leaders from such companies as Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Black and Decker, and the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. These partnerships and processes have ultimately created modern curricula in the areas of industrial maintenance, fabrication, processing, and electronics for both degreed and continuing education programs in manufacturing and engineering.
Recently, through the joint efforts of the TIME Center’s partner community colleges, four electronic courses were revitalized and converted into an online learning environment that includes simulations and gaming-oriented assessments.
A Fabrication Lab for the Modern Student
As far as providing hands-on experiences to students, the TIME Center has gained a reputation for creating a high quality “FAB Lab” at the CCBC campus. As noted on the TIME Center website, “the CCBC FAB Lab is a high tech workshop open to the public where entrepreneurs, product developers, inventors, and business people can get help making prototypes of their inventions.”
Equipment at the FAB Lab includes a ShopBot router, a CNC milling machine, a UPrint 3-D printer, Roland Vinyl cutter, Epilog laser cutter and a variety of design software. “Users must complete a safety and machine use training class before using any of the equipment. Lectures and resources at the lab educate users about industrial design, manufacturing, marketing, intellectual property protection, licensing, and other product development steps.”
Burch says that both Advanced Placement coursework at the secondary level as well as coursework in advanced manufacturing at many higher education institutions do not show students how to actually apply what they have learned. “We have an MIT-modeled fabrication lab where graduate students come to see what they have been creating on a computer, because they do not have the equipment that shows them what the part they have engineered in a classroom actually looks like.”
All this and many more accomplishments generated by the TIME Center continue to address the ongoing needs of technically trained workers in advanced manufacturing technologies.
Written for TrainingIndustry.com