By Sapp, John Hoyt; Gohdes, William Edward
Vocational Education Journal , Vol. 70, No. 6
The hallmarks of many European cities are beautifully crafted cathedrals that attest to the high standards of past stone masons. These masons, when they had finished a piece, chiseled a unique mark into their work that identified it as a quality product. There were many masons working on many cathedrals in the first four centuries of this millennium, but only those masons' marks on the cathedrals still standing today indicate the top performers of that era.
Many artisans in the last four centuries have established high quality products by selecting the best piece to place their mark upon. This benchmark enabled other craftsmen to refer to it as an example or model. Benchmarking the best work became a standard of quality. The ability of the industry to copy the benchmark standard established its reputation in the marketplace.
Today consumers look for a product guarantee whenever they shop for a product. Many manufacturers of food products place their guarantee on the label and provide a toll-free number for the consumer to use anytime there is a question of unfulfilled performance. Those using the product guarantee benefit in the same way that the masons and artisans did by gaining assurance that the product meets an established standard.
In 1989 the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education, which establishes the administrative policies and program standards for the 33 technical institutes statewide, looked into methods of assuring business and industry that the graduates of their standardized programs were able to perform all program competencies satisfactorily.
Obviously, the technical institutes' graduates are not pieces of stone to be placed in a fixed structure, nor are they an item that once determined "perfect" may be considered a benchmark standard to compare other graduates with. Although graduates are proud of completing their programs, labeling their contents and providing a toll-free number are not options.
One often used method for evaluating educational program products is the testimonial. Quotations from graduates and employers about the benefits of technical programs lend credibility to a school. Publishing program offerings is another method of ensuring that prospective students know what is required to complete the program.
These methods and others continue to be used, but they have no relevance to the graduate who may not be successful on the job. So the Georgia department sought a new method that resulted in a policy--Code 04-01-05, Warranty of Degree and Diploma Graduates. Entering students and prospective employers of Technical Institute graduates received a brochure that contains these statements:
* The Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education has developed curriculum standards with direct involvement of business and industry. These standards will serve as the industry-validated specifications for each occupational program.
* These standards allow Georgia's 33 technical institutes to offer their business partners his guarantee. …