High school students participate in Delaware Technical Community College's Advanced Manufacturing Pathways Program
“Team work was what they tried to instill. I was sort of on an assembly line but not really. Everyone had their own goal. It was pretty cool. I was the one to begin the assembly and it was a $250,000 product. I always wanted to do engineering, but I didn’t know what it was. I’m going to join the Navy as an electrician’s mate and then go to college on the GI Bill.”
-Nicolas Ambrosino, William Penn High School Senior, Internship, Agilent Technologies
Five years ago, high school students had no option to train for manufacturing careers in Delaware. By the summer of 2015, Delaware Technical Community College (Del Tech) had worked with local businesses to place their first cohort of rising high school seniors in paid summer internships with local manufacturing companies. These students are on their way to completing Del Tech’s Advanced Manufacturing Pathways Program. Within the next three years, an additional 150 students will complete internships and graduate ready for jobs or additional education in this high-demand field. In celebration of National Apprenticeship Week 2016, we profile Delaware’s outstanding manufacturing pathway, a program that already has the scale and quality to be replicated across the United States.
Developing Delaware’s career pathways
Creating career pathways for young people represents a key goal in Delaware. When Delaware joined the Pathways to Prosperity Network in 2014, Governor Jack Markell committed to developing career pathways to meet the needs of the Delaware economy for all the state’s young people. He assembled a cross-sector team representing schools, businesses, and community partners to plan and execute the work. This team works together to provide an array of exciting opportunities for Delaware’s young people. Students can now choose among 10 different career pathways aligned to areas of high-demand in the state and regional labor market. Career pathways provide students with relevant coursework, work-based learning opportunities, and a foot in the door with one of many local companies and organizations. In the 2016-2017 school year, more than 5,000 students in 29 of 44 high schools are enrolled in state-model pathways programs.
Why Advanced Manufacturing?
During the last decade, as in many states, Delaware faced the demise of manufacturing as General Motors, Chrysler, and other heavy industry manufacturers left the state. But recently, small and medium-sized tech-enabled specialty manufacturers have joined the Delaware economy, creating a skills gap within this re-emerging industry. Del Tech designed the Advanced Manufacturing Pathways Program to address this identified skills gap and respond to the need for a pipeline of manufacturing workers who possess an increased level of technical skills. With funding from a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant, the college launched a Manufacturing Technician program for adult learners in 2011. The curriculum, equipment, and lab for this program became the foundation for its Advanced Manufacturing Pathways Program for high school students. Since Advanced Manufacturing had a head start and employers were eager for graduates, it became the first pathway to roll out.
“I was at a chemical company. I didn’t know when I started what I’d think, but by the end, I thought, ‘this is really interesting.’ I did something new every day; I got to go out in the field and do maintenance and work hands on… I really liked that. The team was welcoming, but they told me to stay in school. They wished they’d done that so they could improve their lives. I’m going to go to college in electrical engineering.”
-Andrew Flynn, William Penn High School Senior, Internship, Kuehne Chemical Compan
Graduating with a path forward
Del Tech implemented a unique dual-enrollment program that allows for high school juniors and seniors to split time between their high school and Del Tech’s Innovation Technology Center. Students receive 600+ hours of instruction utilizing curricula crafted by both industry experts and the College’s Center for Creative Instruction and Technology. Integrating traditional classroom teaching methods with a state-of-the-art Amatrol simulated training platform helps to produce learning experiences that mirror the technology in the workplace.
To further complement this work-based learning experience, students complete a 200-hour paid craftsmanship experience at the end of their first year of instruction. By the completion of the two-year program, students earn national certifications and are eligible for advanced standing with up to 13 college credits towards programs at Del Tech, providing a path to both postsecondary education and immediate employment in the manufacturing field. “It’s pretty cool to teach them. They’re rookies when they come in as juniors and professionals when they go out,” reported Walter Ruth, a teacher in the program.
Among the companies hosting students and actively supporting the program are: Siemens, Bloom Energy, Agilent Technologies, and AstraXeneca. This past June, out of the first cohort of 24 graduates, 8 were immediately hired to work in manufacturing, 16 are attending Del Tech, and 6 are enrolled in a four-year institution. Several of these latter are also working.
“I learned input and output, how to work machines manually so that if they broke down I could fix them. But I couldn’t drive a fork lift—you have to be 18. Everybody was very welcoming and very informative. I had about four people always helping me with college choices as I was learning the processes. I have all their emails and phone numbers, and we communicate.”
-Ronè Wallace, William Penn High School Senior, Internship, AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical Company
Successfully scaling career pathways: Learning from Del Tech’s experience
Building on small pilots in several high schools, Del Tech mounted the first substantial manufacturing pathway. The college’s experience moving from pilot to scale at a surprisingly rapid pace illustrates notable lessons for all attempting to put high school college career pathways in place.
- Del Tech, the sole community college in the state, had strong workforce programs in place and was willing to take on the challenging role of a workforce intermediary. Del Tech defines its intermediary role as supporting local employers by helping them build organizational capacity to recruit and on-board student talent, and supporting educators by enriching and advancing school-based instruction and work-based learning experiences.
- The college engaged industry partners from the start through the state’s Manufacturing Association. Employer representatives assisted Del Tech in gaining industry input on program design resulting in the identification of four separate program tracks: Material Handling/Distribution Technician; Production Technician; Lab Technician; and Maintenance/Mechanic Technician.
- State leaders set a unified vision, goals, and strategic plan to implement pathways; they meet weekly, problem solve rapidly, and seek support and advice from the national Pathways to Prosperity team at Jobs for the Future as needed.