ARCHBOLD, OHIO –The U.S. Department of Labor recently awarded Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grants to sixty-six community colleges across the nation. Five of those grantees are in Ohio, with Northwest State Community College receiving just under $2.5 million. NSCC will use the funding to enhance curriculum in several of its advanced manufacturing programs.
The grant will take four years to implement and evaluate, but students will start to see some changes within the next year. Best practices will be shared with the Department of Labor and could be put into practice statewide and even nationwide.
One of the key grant activities is the expansion of prior learning assessments, which are a way to recognize the skills and knowledge that students already have. “Many of the students in these programs enter college with experience in manufacturing, and prior learning assessments help us assign college credit for that experience. That means students can complete programs in less time and get to work faster,” said Tom Wylie, associate vice president of special projects at NSCC.
Technology upgrades, namely a “computer farm,” will lead the way for other curriculum improvements. The computer farm will house applications and software that students can access from nearly any device.
“Programs like industrial automation maintenance, programmable logic controllers and robotics use specialized software that students can only access from campus computer labs. The computer farm will make that technology accessible to students anywhere, anytime,” said Wylie. “Improved access means more than convenience. It means students can work at their own pace. Once they’ve mastered a skill, they can move on and spend more time on skills they need to develop.”
The computer farm will also house simulations students can use to practice their skills. “Studies show that training through simulation leads to stronger workplace performance,” said Wylie. “Local employers will help us design the simulations using actual scenarios from the workplace, including everything from standard operations to troubleshooting an equipment breakdown. We want students to encounter these situations for the first time during their coursework, where instructors can provide guidance and feedback, not on the shop floor with dollars and production at stake.”