Bart Johnson, Dean of Academic Affairs at Itasca Community College is a member of the governance council for the initiative. In this post, he reports on an effort led by Itasca Community college in the development of an advanced industrial technical program.
Itasca Community College (ICC) is developing a new advanced industrial technical program to respond to the changing needs of regional manufacturing, industrial employers, and students interested in working in these fields. The program will build on ICC’s current pulp and paper and power generation programs. As the careers in those industries, as well as manufacturing and emerging biochemical industries, become more highly skilled and more integrated with the use of technology, it is critical to develop educational opportunities that prepare students for these high-paying careers.
On June 10th, a summit of industry representatives from the region met in Grand Rapids to help us create a “Road Map” for developing this new program. Roy Smith, Director of Workforce Development for IRRRB, gave attendees a big picture overview of the changing landscape of Northeastern MN that reinforced the need for this proactive response from the college. ICC representatives shared the history of the current industrial technology programs, and the importance of evolving their course offerings to meet this changing landscape. The new program promises to strengthen partnerships between industry, the college, and K-12 schools, and will be centered around the Applied Learning Initiative (ALI) of NE Minnesota.
Key program outcomes identified by the summit participants include:
- Develop a core set of employee skills: worker (professional) skills, technical skills, systems operations skills, and a student selected industrial operations emphasis
- Establish a project-based learning approach with industry projects and experiences as a “spline” throughout the course work
- Identify ways to reduce the time from start to graduation from the program.
- Find ways for the program to partner with area high schools in developing the future workforce.
- Connect the new program to the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success, specifically looking at the continuum of the education experience, but just as importantly looking at development opportunities for the underemployed in the Itasca County area.
The next step in the program development is a July 1 meeting with Itasca Area Schools Collaborative (IASC) high school principals. The goal of this meeting will be to identify potential partnerships and educational opportunities for their students to receive college credit towards the new program.. In August, ICC, K-12 partners, and industry representatives will meet to review the developing program model. ICC is working towards a Fall 2016 start date for the program.