Effective Practices for Maintaining and Strengthening Chemistry-Based Technology Programs

The most successful chemistry-based technology programs prepare students for careers by aligning curriculum with local industry needs. Industry-responsive institutions are strong in three areas: industry and community partnerships, academic rigor, and practical experience opportunities.

In 2009, the now-defunct ACS Chemical Technology Approval Service (CTPAS) compiled a list of effective practices for chemistry-based technology programs. The list was compiled using feedback from the ACS-approved chemistry-based technology programs and the experiences of CTPAS members.

Refer to the following practices to maintain and grow a strong, industry-responsive chemistry-based technology program.

Building Industry and Community Partnerships

  • Chemistry-based technology programs should have an advisory board whose members have a vested interest in the success of the programs. The advisory board is responsible for the development and maintenance of the program and its curriculum.
  • At the bare minimum, the advisory board should be comprised of representatives from the faculty and local/regional industry. To be more effective, the advisory board should also include representatives from workforce organizations, other academic institutions (such as middle school, high school, community colleges, and universities), as well as program graduates and current students.
  • The advisory board should engage in at least some of the activities mentioned here. The board may also choose to pursue other activities of mutual benefit.
  • Chemistry-based technology programs should undergo a qualitative assessment to align the program curriculum with the needs of the program’s industry partners. Such assessment may take the form of a gap analysis, although alternate approaches can be used, as appropriate.
  • The advisory board should meet on a regular basis and have meaningful communication between meetings. Such meetings and communications provide regular checks to ensure that the chemistry-based technology program remains aligned with changing industry needs. Meaningful projects will also keep board members engaged.
  • The advisory board should work with the program’s partners to develop a set of skill standards specific to their needs. Such standards can be developed by the customization of existing standards or through the development of new ones.
  • A significant portion of graduates should be retained by industry.

Developing Strong Academic Rigor

  • Chemistry-based technology programs should have a clear and precise mission statement and goals. Both should be consistent with the mission of the academic institution and include language on the preparation of students for careers as chemical professionals.
  • Program assessment tools should be in place to ensure that program outcomes match the program mission and goals.
  • Chemistry-based technology programs should include the same core concepts topics as traditional chemistry programs. For two-year programs, the concepts covered in most general and organic chemistry courses should be incorporated into the program. Not only are these concepts important to most employers, they also facilitate student transfer among programs.
  • Chemistry-based technology programs should provide some form of analytical or instrumentation coursework. The coursework should include at least the basics of all forms of instrumentation required by the program’s industry partners.
  • Safety should be an integral part of the chemistry-based technology curriculum, not limited to a brief lecture at the beginning of a course. In addition to standard protocol for safe laboratory practice, students should be educated in emergency procedures.
  • Chemistry-based technology programs may choose to pursue certain topics or have a specific focus, such as pharmaceutical manufacturing or environmental technology. Courses addressing such topics should be selected by the advisory board to meet the needs of the partners.
  • Faculty should have appropriate knowledge and expertise of their subject area. Faculty should also have opportunities for professional development in both the subject area and education. Such opportunities can include summer internships with industry partners, pedagogical workshops, and presentations at professional association meetings.
  • The program should have adequate facilities, equipment, and staff to support the program.
  • Enrollment numbers should be sufficient to sustain the program.

Providing Practical Experience Opportunities

  • Programs should have adequate facilities and equipment to meet their missions and goals.
  • Computer technology and computer-based instruction should be integrated in the laboratory and classroom.
  • Application activities, such as long-term projects and/or capstone courses, should be integrated into the curriculum.
  • Students should have workplace experiences, such as internships or job-shadowing, available to them.
  • Computer technology and computer-based instruction should be integrated in the laboratory and classroom.