Packer Standards To Alter Community College Teaching Chris Rowett ------------------------------------ Homewood News and Information Arnold Packer believes all college graduates should be qualified for the workforce. So the senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies will spend at least the next three years trying to improve their chances. Packer, who calls community colleges the "most flexible part of the education system," said two-year institutions graduate many potential employees in the field of manufacturing; improving how those students are educated could only increase the competitiveness of American manufacturing. Working with a panel of employers and educators throughout the country, Packer developed standards for an associate's degree in high-performance manufacturing. The new degree would allow students to specialize in one of several aspects of manufacturing, including the metal working, printing and electronics industries. All students, however, would graduate with a more diversified education. The ultimate goal, Packer said, is a nationally accepted degree in manufacturing technology. The project recently received a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation. "What we're trying to accomplish here is to change the way community colleges train students for industry," Packer said. "We're trying to make it possible for all community colleges to reach higher standards." One of the panel's recommendations is that students be able to modify existing systems to improve products and services. One way to meet that requirement, for example, would be to have students enhance a current computer system. "I think it's a very good program," said David Pierce, president of the American Association of Community Colleges. "We've been participating from day one." Initially, IPS will work with five community colleges to develop and implement a model program in manufacturing technology. Thoughout the country, more than 320,000 students are currently enrolled in the 687 two-year schools that offer degrees in engineering technology, Packer said. "It's not a new curriculum," said Elizabeth Mathias, co-principal investigator of the project who will work with Hagerstown Community College in Hagerstown, Md. "Oftentimes, people start by reinventing the wheel. We've really been building on what we do well in community colleges and enhancing that." In addition to Hagerstown, the participating community colleges are Modesto Junior College (Modesto, Calif.), New Hampshire Technical Institute (Concord, N.H.), South Seattle Community College (Seattle, Wash.) and Northern Essex Community College (Havervill, Mass.). Some schools, Packer said, may have already adopted some of the 22 recommended standards. The goal, he added, is to get all schools to adopt all the standards. The School of Continuing Studies will help prepare faculty for their new roles; the results of the project will most likely be implemented in the 1997-98 academic year.
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