Creating a new chemistry-based technology program that meets the unique needs of students and hiring corporations is a challenging undertaking. Curricula must be responsive to the rapidly changing needs of employers, academically rigorous, and address the needs of students and the community.
From 1991 to 2009, the ACS Chemical Technology Approval Service (CTPAS) compiled effective practices using feedback from the ACS-approved chemistry-based technology programs and the experiences of CTPAS members. Although CTPAS has been discontinued, these practices continue to represent the prevailing wisdom for developing strong, industry-responsive chemistry-based technology programs.
Refer to the following practices for advice on starting a chemistry-based technology program at your institution.
To ensure that a chemistry-based technology program meets the needs in your area, form a committee that represents your stakeholders. Be sure to include local employers, working technicians, workforce development organizations, community members, potential students, K-16 faculty, and staff.
Some things to consider in the needs analysis:
Start with the committee you assembled for your needs analysis. Attend regional alliance or professional society meetings (such as ACS meetings) to identify industry partners. Your local chamber of commerce* and workforce development agencies should also be familiar with local industry. Be clear that you are seeking partners, not sponsors or donors. Be sure to also include secondary, two-year, and four-year institutions in your alliance, as well as community workforce organizations.
Partnering with another program will give you and technician students access to more resources. Find established chemistry-based technology programs using the U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator tool*, ACS local meetings, or regional alliance meetings.
Someone who has started a program before can be an invaluable source of advice and ideas. Try contacting established chemistry-based technology programs in your region, members of established alliances, or the Committee on Technician Affairs.
The more specific the goals, the more focused your program will be. Identifying clear goals at the outset will reduce confusion among your partners and make the development of program assessment tools easier.
The process of developing a curriculum provides a framework for future discussions with industry partners. Chemistry-based technology programs must be responsive to local needs. Therefore, there is no single curriculum that will cover all contingencies. Review Effective Practices for Maintaining and Strengthening Chemistry-Based Technology Programs to get started.
Several tools are available for developing a set of skill standards specific to you and your partners’ needs. Skill standards, such as those available from Bio-Link*, the National Network for Pulp and Paper Technology Training*, and the North American Process Technology Alliance*, can be customized to meet local/regional needs. A DACUM (Develop a Curriculum)*, WorkKeys*, or similar analysis program can be used to develop a new set.
Although it is possible to identify the specific skills and knowledge graduates will need through a series of focused meetings with the program partners, most programs find it helpful to use established skill standards and other tools to get started.
Generic skills sets can be used as a starting point. The U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET* is one source of such skill sets.
Determine whether the identified skills and knowledge can be adequately provided by existing courses, or if new courses are needed. Although some programs have developed a unique set of courses specifically for their chemistry-based technology students, most programs find standard chemistry courses sufficient for about 70% of the curriculum.
Specialty courses focusing on laboratory work, capstone courses or projects, and internships, frequently comprise the remainder of the curriculum.
Note: Remember to consider your students. If you have a large portion of non-traditional students in your program, offering night, weekend, and summer courses may encourage them to enter and complete your program.
Once you have developed a curriculum, you should document how well it matches the needs of local industry using a gap analysis or crosswalk.
You will need two kinds of assessment tools:
It is common for partners to be heavily involved in the planning and development of a program but lose interest once the program is functional. Keeping partners involved requires regular communication and meaningful projects. Here are some suggestions:
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