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Speaking of Precision

Speaking of Precision is a knowledge preservation and thought leadership blog covering the precision machining industry, its materials and services. With over 36 years of hands on experience in steelmaking, manufacturing, quality, and management, Miles Free (Milo) Director of Industry Research and Technology at PMPA helps answer "How?" "With what?" and occasionally "Really?"

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Upside-Down Degrees Connect Skills Acquisition and Education--Milstein Symposium

Posted June 24, 2014 11:00 AM by Milo

"Upside-down" programs allow students to transfer accredited technical training, work experience, military training, or community college coursework as credit toward a bachelor's degree. Expansion of such programs, with emphasis on manufacturing-related fields, will reduce barriers between skills training and degree attainment, and enhance the quality of the manufacturing workforce." - Milstein Symposium Building a Nation of Makers

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have traditionally succeeded by combining practical production knowledge with technical expertise and business acumen. The blend of practical, technical and managerial that typifies these firms is not the result of a 4 year college program. While technical and managerial knowledge can be obtained in college coursework, obtaining practical production type skills are gained in another path.

According to the Milstein Symposium report, "More troubling is that students are given little incentive to connect these two tracks. Colleges and universities frequently do not offer transfer credit for technical skills acquired either on the job, in community colleges, in the military, or through training."

To overcome this disconnect, they propose an expansion of upside-down degrees.

An "upside-down" program essentially inverts the traditional four-year college model. Upside-down students start with the focused technical training and then take the broader coursework to both expand their knowledge base and enhance their critical thinking (see diagram above).

An "upside down' program would entail academic credit / recognition for varying combinations of:

  • Technical training,
  • Military training,
  • Associate's degrees,
  • Job experience

These could be counted as up to two years of college credit.

Students then need only complete the remaining coursework to earn a bachelor's degree from a four-year institution.

Upside-down degrees can provide an excellent means of integrating the skills needed by employees at todays advanced manufacturing SMEs- technical, practical, and managerial/academic.

We think that this idea is worth considering. We know that it works- as many of our PMPA member companies provide support for continuing education of both technical and college subjects.

Upside-down degrees

For more details on upside-down degrees see idea #2 (page 16 of the PDF) at the Milstein Report on PMPA's homepage.


Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank Milo for sharing this blog entry, which you can finish reading here.

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#1

Re: Upside-Down Degrees Connect Skills Acquisition and Education--Milstein Symposium

06/24/2014 2:10 PM

The University of Wisconsin is working with local technical colleges to be able to transfer credits. Even though these are general educational credits, I believe it helps defer/reduce college costs to obtain ones bachelor's degree. It's also very convenient.

I don't believe that all courses should be transferable, there is nothing that compares to the resources of a high quality classroom experience. As much as this sounds, I do not intend to put down local technical colleges quality.....

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#2
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Re: Upside-Down Degrees Connect Skills Acquisition and Education--Milstein Symposium

06/25/2014 9:46 AM

The 'Upside down' degrees can help to fulfill some of the 'fundamental' coursework, but the more advanced courses, which also tend to introduce the students to the 'cutting edge' tech that is just starting to enter the plants, should be done at the colleges and trade schools.

--semi-off topic rambling below this line--

I'm reminded of when I got my BSEET degree, the Physics II course felt a bit strange, as that course covers basic electrical theory for about half of it, and we already knew all that fro the first year curse Electronics Fundamentals. I did mean some interesting tidbits, such as a capacitor with stacked dielectrics is treated as two capacitors in series in the bath, and that a capacitor with two different dielectrics side by side is treated like two capacitors in parallel. But who makes 'mixed up' capacitors like that anyway?

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Re: Upside-Down Degrees Connect Skills Acquisition and Education--Milstein Symposium

06/25/2014 10:46 AM

I agree on this whole heartedly, structured classroom and I believe I made a reference to it in my post........

such as new technology or structured problem solving.

But I do have to make exceptions, and that is applications........

I'll share an experience what I had 20 + tears ago, but is still relevant . note experience is in bold letters. I used to program CNC equipment. And I was using CNC programming software. And was getting really into it.... writing posts, macros and such to automate the software (it was called SmartCAM and now I believe is defunct) ...... a night course was offered at a local Technical college The link in my post above........

I went and before the class was over, I had corrected the instructor on some applications. The instructor had no practical experience on the software He later told me that I was not going to gain anything on the class...... At first I apologize for correcting him....... but what he said was my ability was far more advanced than the class coursework......

Along with this, there were also problems with having a well understood usage and application of the software, and that you use the software at an efficiency that is well above what it was intended for...... the problem with this, is an upgrade or a newer release of the software can wipe that out......... as what was told to me by the distributor of the software. Which was very surprise on how I was applying it.

I like to add that NWTC (Northeast Wisconsin Technical College), prior to becoming a college in the 80's, It was known as NWTI (Northeast Wisconsin Technical Institute).

When it acquired the college designation, it had to follow a tight structured curriculum. As opposed when it was a institute. As an institute, the school could shaped it's curriculum more area the surrounding industry's...... it was a very valuable school....... and it still is, being ranked very high compared with the rest of the (2) year tech colleges in the States.

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#3

Re: Upside-Down Degrees Connect Skills Acquisition and Education--Milstein Symposium

06/25/2014 10:34 AM

If you accumulate enough credits while in military service you can get a degree through DANTES.

You accumulate college credit with each promotion and advancement test you take and things like CLEP and ACT tests are free and any trade school counts as credits.

However, credits accumulated in this manner are used towards elective credits at a college or university.

I have 37 college credits from military service and I didn't use them towards my bachelors.

If you've had instructor duty while in the military, that counts towards a teaching credential.

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Re: Upside-Down Degrees Connect Skills Acquisition and Education--Milstein Symposium

06/25/2014 10:49 AM

Most have that to a certain degree....... plus some colleges credit you with what is called life experiences (applied to general education courses, of which is the transferable Tech colleges credits that are transferable) ........... but anything else, I see that it is more likely can be applied to a liberal arts degree.

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Re: Upside-Down Degrees Connect Skills Acquisition and Education--Milstein Symposium

06/25/2014 10:52 AM

These are all great comments. Thanks.

Milo

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Re: Upside-Down Degrees Connect Skills Acquisition and Education--Milstein Symposium

06/28/2014 3:24 PM

I was lucky to be able to attend Pratt Institute back in the 50's. Their curriculum's for a bachelor's degree included a lot of "hands-on" courses, like labs, foundry, material testing, machine shop, pattern making, etc. It gave the student an understanding of the manufacturing processes. I don't know if they still operate that way. All of this was before CNC or NC machines. Strong emphasis was given to manual machines. Even in the ME curriculum, there were electrical and chemical labs that were taken. You got a good across-the-board understanding of the then current technology.

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