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A deeper dive into this year's TAACCCT-funded initiatives

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A student in the aviation program at Wichita Area Technical College in Kansas.

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The recent award of $500 million in federal funds to community colleges nationwide underscores the crucial role these institutions play in providing job training—and in improving the nation’s employment rates, boosting local economies and reviving U.S. manufacturing.

The grants are part of the $2-billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) initiative administered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.

The second-round TAACCCT grants, announced in September, were awarded to 27 consortia, nearly all of them led by community colleges, plus 27 individual colleges. Counting all of the consortia members, 297 colleges and universities received funding.

In this article, Community College Times takes a closer look at a few of the selected consortia and participating colleges and their projects that will receive TAACCCT funding.

Training for aviation jobs

Wichita Area Technical College (WATC) in Kansas is the leader of a consortium that will use its $14.9-million grant to develop industry credentials for the aviation industry. WATC and its partners—Tulsa Community College (Oklahoma), Ivy Tech Community College (Indiana), Guilford Technical Community College (North Carolina) and Edmonds Community College (Washington)—are all located near aviation manufacturing facilities, said Sheree Utash, vice president for academic affairs at WATC. The Wichita area, for example, has Spirit AeroSystems, Bombardier Learjet, Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft plants nearby.

The consortium will provide accelerated training for more than 2,500 students in the five states, using strategies based on the National Manufacturers Association Institute’s Skills Certificate System. There are about 600-700 students in WATC’s degree and certificate aviation programs, which cover aviation design, construction and aftermarket servicing.

Next Monday in the Times: We check with college consortia that received first-round TAACCCT grants to see how their initiatives are progressing.

The TAACCCT-funded program will “give them an opportunity to gain an industry-recognized credential, which will make them more work ready and more employable,” Utash said.

The idea is “to create curriculum content with specifications from the aviation industry and create third-party credentials,” she said. That will enable an aviation student from any of the participating colleges to take a uniform curriculum and receive a credential that can be accepted anywhere.

The consortium will develop six stackable aviation credentials: sheet metal assembly, composite repair, computer numerical control (machining), electrical assembly, quality assurance and health and safety. The colleges will also create content for online courses and lab projects and implement transfer and articulation agreements.

Advanced manufacturing

William Rainey Harper College in Illinois, the leader of a consortium that received a $12.9-million grant, is establishing a statewide network of 23 colleges and industry representatives to create a curriculum leading to stackable, portable certificates in advanced manufacturing.

The Earn and Learn Advanced Manufacturing Career Lattice Program calls for a three-month paid internship in manufacturing, said Harper College President Kenneth Ender. The college will focus on four specialties: mechatronics/automation, numerical controls, metal fabrication and supply chain management/logistics. Sixty students will take part each year.

The program is designed to serve dislocated workers and veterans, who enter the program at various points based on an assessment to match their skills and education needs.

Statewide, there are 7,000-8,000 jobs available in advanced manufacturing—and well over 700 in the area served by Harper College—that are unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled workers, Ender said. Among the manufacturers providing internships to students is Nation Pizza and Foods, which makes 60,000 pizzas an hour for several brands, including Lean Cuisine.

“These aren’t stereotypical factories anymore,” Ender said. “It’s high-tech manufacturing using state-of-the-art equipment that requires good math and computer skills, as well as critical thinking.”

Evolving workforce needs

Advanced manufacturing is also the focus for an individual $2.9-million TAACCCT grant to Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC) in Montana. The face of manufacturing is changing in the communities served by FVCC, said Matt Springer, associate director of resource development and grants. As the logging industry has declined—due to increased global competition and the slowdown in construction—the local gun industry is growing, and semiconductor, zinc battery and other manufacturers are moving in. 

List of 2012 TAACCCT grants by state

The federal grant "will allow us to better serve TAA-eligible and other unemployed and incumbent workers in a timely and cost-effective manner while preparing them for local good-paying jobs in a rapidly growing industry,” said FVCC President Jane Karas.

FVCC’s Amplifying Montana’s Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Industry project will train dislocated mill workers and others for jobs in the growing and emerging fields.

“Businesses told us their growth is limited somewhat by the lack of qualified employees, so this program will hopefully meet that need and spur more growth,” Springer said.

Accelerated and stackable

FVCC will adopt the framework developed by the Breaking Through initiative, which looks to accelerate the pace of learning, provide comprehensive support services, align training with workforce demands and strengthen the channel for lower-skilled workers into college.

The college will create 10 latticed and connected short-term certificate programs in advanced manufacturing and new curricula based on employers’ needs. The stackable nature of the certificates offer students multiple on-and-off ramps, each one building upon previously gained competencies. Springer likens it to a subway system, where two people get on at different stations, travel together for a while and then one transfers to a different line.

FVCC will adopt the National Career Readiness Certificate assessment developed by ACT to determine whether students are prepared to enter a particular career path and will use  “workforce navigators” to serve as a bridge between people looking for jobs and training programs.

In addition, FVCC will adopt the technology-enabled Emporium model of developmental math, developed by the National Center for Academic Transformation, which relies on  self-paced, interactive software with teachers providing on-demand personalized assistance. The college also plans to use the grant to strengthen entrepreneurship training to spur the growth of small manufacturing plants and accompanying jobs. 

Genome-based meds

Norwalk Community College (NCC) in Connecticut will head a state consortium that will use its $12.1-million TAACCCT grant for a Health and Life-Science Career Initiative. The consortium includes four community colleges—Capital, Gateway, Manchester and Middlesex—plus the online Charter Oak State College and Eastern Connecticut State University.

Abstracts for 2012 TAACCCT projects

The initiative builds on the governor’s economic development plan that calls for an increased focus on bio-medicine, said NCC President David Levinson. One of the employer partners is the Jackson Laboratory, which specializes in the emerging field of personalized medicine based on a patient’s genetic code.

According to Levinson, the team will use its grant to develop training programs for technicians and other support personnel and construct a career ladder to guide students from a certification or associate degree all the way to PhD-level work. The goal is to provide internships for 360 students and job placement services for 2,000 at various hospitals, labs and other health facilities.

While training people for bio-medicine jobs at a new Jackson Laboratory research facility is a major objective, the facility will also need skilled people in a range of associated fields, such as genetic counseling and social work, Levinson said.

He added that the new initiative “is a way to catalyze the growing science and health cluster in Connecticut” and strengthen the relationships community colleges already have with hospitals and other corporate partners. Levinson noted that the health-care project will do more than provide jobs: “It will contribute to the overall wellbeing of all of our citizens.”

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