Volume 24, No. 4, 4th Quarter, 2023

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From the Director

Craig McAtee, NCATC CEO and Executive Director

December 2023

NCATC Friends and Colleagues,

In this edition we are focusing on NCATC Strategic Pillar #3 – Competency-Based Education and Industry-Recognized Credentials for Workforce Development / Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.

QUESTION: How can college leaders improve the public perception (ROI) of higher education?

FACT: The relevance of many degrees in the job market has continued to erode over the last decade. 

College leaders and faculty need to understand and believe that their NUMBER ONE CUSTOMERS are their community’s EMPLOYERS—health care, manufacturing, technology, supply chain, hospitality, finance, and the rest. And their career pathway (HS & Transfer) and incumbent worker STUDENTS are not only customers but also their PRODUCT.

College leaders need to work towards strengthening the connection between education and the job market at all levels. They can achieve this by:

  • Genuinely collaborating with industry partners.

  • Establishing effective and efficient 21st-century advisory boards (i.e., Business & Industry Leadership Teams) with co-leadership from education and employer leadership levels.

  • Integrating real-world experiences into the curriculum.

  • Aligning educational programs with the needs of the job market.

  • Moving away from 20th-century “time-based” education and training to Competency-Based Education (CBE) with at least 50% Applied, Experiential Learning embedded in all courses, programs, and degrees.

  • Crosswalking the competencies vetted by employers in Industry-Recognized Credentials (IRC) and Certifications and embedding in the curriculum, where appropriate.

  • Streamlining the curriculum review, updates, and approval process at the local and state levels—in other words, striving to MOVE AT THE SPEED OF BUSINESS.

Improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiencies of learning by:

  • Maintaining high academic standards in shorter-term, stackable credentials and certificates.

  • Expanding Career & Technical Education (CTE) and Workforce Development programs to at least the level of Transfer Programs (50% / 50% or more) focused on the Future of Work.

  • Investing in faculty professional development including formal externships with industry, attracting and retaining top-notch instructors and faculty with better pay.

  • Embracing technological advancements to improve the accessibility and affordability of higher education.

  • Offering a range of educational pathways, including online programs, that will attract a wider audience and cater to the needs of diverse learners.

  • Effectively learning what Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) are needed from tight collaboration and partnership with community employers and ensuring courses reflect them in your student learning outcomes and competencies.

  • Making Work-Based-Learning (WBL)—co-ops, internships, pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships, job opportunities, etc.—part of all programs in tight collaboration with business & industry (B&I).

On December 14th NCATC is holding the Q4-23 – Quarterly Member Drop-In that will focus on NCATC Pillar 3: Competency-Based Education and Industry-Recognized Credentials Promising Practices and Needs Discussion with Members. REGISTER HERE

And we look forward to seeing many of you at the AACC Workforce Development Institute – WDI 2024: Bridges in New Orleans, LA (NOLA) this coming January 23–26, 2024. Find all the information and registration links HERE.

As always, we encourage you to stay regularly connected and up to date on all ATC, WFD, and CTE related activities and guidance, via the weekly updated NCATC website, social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), and quarterly e-newsletters like this one.

Happy Holidays 2023!

President's Corner

Craig Lamb, President, NCATC

NCATC Friends and Colleagues,

Some questions have been rattling around in my head as I reflect on NCATC’s Pillar 3—Competency-Based Learning and Industry-Recognized Credentials:

How can colleges remain relevant when the cycle time for technology change is often shorter than the cycle time to update curriculum?

How do colleges help employers and students keep pace with exponential growth in technology?

Just in Case, or Just in Time Learning?

Today, knowledge is growing exponentially. In many fields, the useful life of knowledge is now measured in months rather than years. According to Cathy Gonzalez, in her 2004 paper on The Role of Blended Learning in the World of Technology:

One of the most persuasive factors is the shrinking half-life of knowledge. The “half-life of knowledge” is the timespan from when knowledge is gained to when it becomes obsolete. Half of what is known today was not known 10 years ago. The amount of knowledge in the world has doubled in the past 10 years and is doubling every 18 months according to the American Society of Training and Documentation. To combat the shrinking half-life of knowledge, organizations have been forced to develop new methods of deploying instruction. (Frey, Thomas. "Just-in-Case Learning versus Just-in-Time Learning." Futurist Speaker, 10/8/2020, www.futuristspeaker.com)

While there is clearly not a single answer as to whether to lean towards “just in time” over “just in case” learning (you clearly want your physician to receive a thorough, rigorous, and comprehensive medical education), recognizing the half-life of knowledge as it applies to many roles in advanced manufacturing is vital to understanding the value of competency-based education and industry certifications.

Three Markets: I often break down our workforce into three piles—the Emerging Workforce, the Incumbent Workforce, and the Transitioning Workforce.

The Emerging Workforce (traditional college-age students with limited work experience) benefits most from traditional, time-based, just-in-case learning. Lacking work-related context, a comprehensive education prepares them for the myriad of future roles they may assume. Competency-based learning, however, can speed up the process for these learners and reduce frustration among learners.

The Transitioning Workforce (career-changers by choice or by circumstance) have limited time for a training result and bring widely varied experiences to the classroom. The ability to leverage prior learning and scaffold a group of industry certifications for their next career move is vital.

The Incumbent Workforce is the largest group, by far, and needs access to just-in-time learning to support their current role, as well as their next. Industry-recognized certifications and microcredentials play a vital role in validating and documenting learning for both the employer and the worker.

So, what can we do to advance the ideas of competency-based learning and industry credentials in our partner institutions? Colleges need to foster ongoing, robust conversation between educators and industry to ensure that relevant and current credentials are used, understood, and promoted; faculty need to hold the credentials that industry values (in addition to their academic credentials); colleges need methods for transcripting microcredentials and industry certifications alongside academic achievement; and competency-based systems and credit for prior learning systems need to be accessible and easily leveraged by students.

Not easy tasks, but critical steps for colleges to continue helping keep our workforce trained, competitive, and productive.

It’s been my pleasure to serve as NCATC’s board president this year. I encourage you to reach out to me with suggestions, questions, or comments.

2023–2024 Board of Directors Transitions:

NCATC Directors Leaving the Board on Dec 31, 2023

Becky Epps

St. Louis Community College (MO)

Jonathan Beck

Northland Community & Technical College (MN)

Craig Lamb

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (NC)

Greg Jones

AMT <> Tooling U-SME (OH)


2024–2027 Board Directors

Dr. Robin Cole Jr.

Monroe Community College (NY)

Zack T. Hubbard

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (NC)

Dr. Claire Korschinowski

Clover Park Technical College (WA)

Kelcey Woods-Nord

South Central College (MN)

2024 Board Officers

Scott Lucas


Amanda Sizemore

Immediate Past President

Alicia Udhe

President Elect

Harriet Happel


Matt Janisin


2023/24 Membership – Highlights

NCATC Membership Committee – 2023 Initiatives

Streamlined Membership Levels

  • Coalition Member replaces Full Center & Associate Level
  • Affiliate Level included CTE High Schools

Moving to Digital Badges vs. Paper Certificates

NEW Enhanced Member Benefits


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The Q4-23 Member Drop-In will focus on NCATC Strategic Pillar 3Competency-Based Education (CBE) and Industry-Recognized Credentials (IRCs) for Workforce Development Programs – promising practices and additional needs of our members.    


Our time together will be with three NCATC Board Directors getting the conversation started by briefly highlighting each of their recent best practices articles from this newsletter.    


At a minimum, 30 minutes will be peer-to-peer, free-flowing conversation of sharing, listening, learning, asking questions, and building a stronger community around this focus area. 


Bring your “What I Have” and/or “What I Need” mindset to share.  The goal will be to sustain these problem-solving ideas, relationships built, and conversations beyond our 60-minutes together during our Member Drop-In.


In This Issue

  • Board Updates
  • COC Celebrates Grand Opening of Interim Advanced Technology Center
  • St. Louis Manufacturers Ramping Up Recruitment Efforts
  • Industry-Recognized Credential: What, Why, and How
  • SCC to Receive Grant From GM to Help Grow Advanced Manufacturing Credential Programs

COC Celebrates Grand Opening of Interim Advanced Technology Center

The College of the Canyons (COC) interim Advanced Technology Center in Santa Clarita is a state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing and computer numerical control (CNC) production lab that will prepare students for high-skill jobs in advanced manufacturing, welding, and construction technologies.

Attendees at the recent ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the center's grand opening (photo) included local dignitaries, including the Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees, Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook, Congressman Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita), and local business leaders, as well as COC staff, administrators, and students.

“I was able to secure a total of $2 million in earmarks for their brand new equipment that students will use to learn advanced manufacturing skills on state-of-the-art technology,” Garcia later said in a Tweet. “This will also have an immediate and positive impact on the workforce gap in the national security space that’s so crucial in making CA-27 home to Aerospace Valley.”

The 13,500-square-foot facility houses simulation and full production-type machining centers designed to prepare students for stackable industry-recognized credentials and demonstrate the necessary workforce readiness skills as they work toward degree attainment.

St. Louis Manufacturers Ramping Up Recruitment Efforts

Employers in the St. Louis region are experiencing a shortage of qualified hires, especially in manufacturing and the trades. Companies are looking for new ways of building a pipeline of students who can fill open jobs. The jobs are there. The problem is a lack of people to fill them.


Staffing shortages are especially acute in manufacturing, partly because increasing numbers of workers in the field are reaching retirement age, and partly because there just aren’t enough people with the technical skills required to do the work. The problem is nationwide. A May 2021 study by Deloitte (“Creating Pathways for Tomorrow’s Workforce Today: Beyond Reskilling in Manufacturing”) forecasts 2.1 million unfilled manufacturing jobs by 2030. The labor shortage goes beyond technical skills, the report notes. Employers struggle to find people with basic “human capabilities,” such as the ability to follow directions, a willingness to learn, and follow through. The report also identifies DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) as a new imperative for manufacturers: “Manufacturers are moving quickly to build a workforce management strategy that expands diversity in their talent pipeline, fosters an inclusive culture that will retain diverse talent, and upskills their workforce for tomorrow.”


At Melton Machine and Control Company (Washington, Missouri), about ten percent of the workforce has retired over the past few years, said Glenn Archer, the company’s VP of sales and marketing. Melton Machine designs and builds automated welding systems.


Diode Dynamics in St. Charles, a manufacturer of LED lighting products, works with local technical colleges to find skilled workers. According to CEO Paul McCain, bringing in entry-level workers and training them on-site is a necessary cost of doing business.


Becky Epps, manager of St. Louis Community College’s Center for Workforce Innovation in Ferguson, said she began hearing concerns ten or fifteen years ago from manufacturing companies with growing numbers of retirements. “What are we going to do when all this expertise leaves the company?” they asked. At the same time, student interest in the trades was decreasing. Shop classes were being eliminated, Epps said, and enrollments at vocational schools were dropping. Now, she said, high schools are advertising technical careers more to students. According to Epps, there are wait lists for courses at the Center for Workforce Innovation, a 32,000-square-foot facility that prepares 500 students a year in three focus areas: aerospace manufacturing, automated controls/programmable logic controllers, and industrial maintenance technology. The center’s aerospace manufacturing programs focus on aerospace fundamentals, sheet metal assembly, mechanical assembly, composite fabrication, and composite assembly.


Companies are being proactive in getting students’ attention and changing perceptions about manufacturing jobs. Today’s manufacturing environments are clean, brightly lit, and high-tech. The new message for students is that manufacturing is a cool job.

Industry-Recognized Credential: What, Why, and How

Tony Oran, CEO of CoderZ by Intelitek

Employers – especially in the area of skilled trades – are desperate for qualified workers.

These are staggering numbers. At the same time, many job seekers have no way of demonstrating they have the skills required to fill these jobs. Simply having a high school diploma, technical school certificate, or college degree is not enough. The skills developed in these institutions vary greatly from one institution to another, and employers simply do not know what skills these job seekers possess. This is where industry-recognized credentials, or IRCs, become critical. These credentials provide further validation of someone’s skill sets developed as part of earning the credential. However, not all credentials are created equal. In fact, there is an alphabet soup of credentials and credential providers developing every day. The key is to embed credentials from credible institutions that leading industry experts helped develop and/or are endorsed by leading industrial companies. Another key factor is looking for IRCs that are competency-based – not time-based or only knowledge-based. They should include extensive hands-on validation of students’ skills.

Competency-based education/training is becoming more mainstream. If we, as the workforce development community, are going to have a meaningful impact on the above statistic, we have to produce a qualified workforce faster. Competency-based education/credentials are a key element to success.

NCATC is a great source for vetting IRCs and helping educational institutions find the best solution for their local needs.

SCC to Receive Grant From GM to Help Grow Advanced Manufacturing Credential Programs

St. Charles Community College will receive $40,000 in grant funding from GM as one of seven colleges selected by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) to help grow community college advanced manufacturing programs.

Selected colleges are located near GM facilities and will study and share best practices for integrating advanced manufacturing into college curriculum. GM provided a philanthropic grant of $600,000 to be administered by AACC to expand and leverage local programs into national networks.

“Partnering with GM is a wonderful opportunity to develop our manufacturing program to meet the needs of today’s workforce,” said Barbara Kavalier, PhD, SCC president. “We are proud of our longstanding partnership with the GM Wentzville Assembly Center and look forward to working with GM in this new way, to give people in our area even more opportunities to learn and pursue manufacturing as a career.”

The other six community colleges selected are:

Ivy Tech Community College, IN

Lansing Community College, MI

Columbia State Community College, TN

Owens Community College, OH

Johnson County Community College, KS

Imperial Valley Community College, CA 

St. Charles Community College is a public, comprehensive two-year community college with associate degrees and certificate programs in the arts, business, sciences, and career-technical fields. SCC provides workforce training and community-based personal and professional development as well as cultural, recreational, and entertainment opportunities. For more information, visit www.stchas.edu.

Welcome, New Coalition Members

Welcome, New Strategic Partners

NCATC Strategic Partners, Fall 2023