Adult Workforce Development (AWD) programs across the country are serving students more effectively than ever by merging well-planned curriculum with innovative practices. Educators say this is critical not only to student success, but also to keeping pace with industry trends and making AWD programs appealing to employers.
Seasoned and successful AWD professionals will tell you there's no cookie-cutter strategy that can guarantee an effective education and training program for adult learners. But combine several key components with an innovative can-do approach and success will surely follow, says Cathy Maxwell, director of The Academy for High Performance at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake, Ill.
"We do whatever it takes to get the job done," Maxwell says about the staff and instructors that run the academy's Integrated Manufacturing Management Program. Whether that means driving textbooks out to a worksite classroom or team-teaching a computer literacy course at a local high school, the program's success lies in its fundamentals, which were recently noted by the National Dissemination Center for Career-- Technical Education (NDC-CTE). In December, at ACTE's annual convention, Maxwell accepted an award from NDC-CTE recognizing the Integrated Manufacturing Management Program as a national demonstration model for 2001. NDC-CTE says the program has several replicable features "including its innovative partnership with local businesses, unique scheduling and alternative delivery methods ... and training of faculty in curriculum integration methodologies."
AWD professionals agree that such components are what continue to succeed and reap benefits in the AWD field. Does your AWD program have the right stuff for success? Here's a look at an effective program and expert advice about what makes successful AWD programs tick.
"The Big Easy" Factor
No, not New Orleans. Here "the big easy" refers to the ease with which a business or student can participate in an AWD program. For example, are classes held at a convenient time and at an accessible location for the full-time employees of a local business? How difficult is it for potential students to register, buy class materials, attend classes and still have a family life? These are important questions, Maxwell asserts. A school can have the best academic and technical program in the state, but if students don't attend, it's the same as nothing at all. According to a recent study published by the American Association of Community Colleges, more than half of employers who turn to community colleges for workforce education training note that convenience influenced their decision.
"There is the convenience factor," says Maxwell. "That is very, very important to our program. Our students are busy. They have families. A lot of them work 50 to 60 hours a week, and they're involved in outside activities. They're volunteering at the local fire departments, Little Leagues ... and all kinds of other things."
Students of the Integrated Manufacturing Management Program meet once a week for five hours and earn six credit hours per semester. Upon completing the 63-credit-hour program-which works out to be 22 classes in a little less than four years-- students earn an associate's degree in applied science. They also earn a certificate in manufacturing supervision (after the first two years of the program) and another in manufacturing processes (after the third year). Classes usually take place in the evening at the worksite or college.
The convenience factor also affects the very survival of the businesses that reach out to educational institutions for training, says Ron Cassidy, vice president of ACTE's AWD Division. If a business can't meet its training needs in one community, it must go elsewhere, resulting in a loss of jobs and revenue. "Employers are coming to us with their training needs. We need to meet those needs and keep those companies in our communities," says Cassidy, who also is superintendent of Licking County Joint Vocational School District in central Ohio. …