The purpose of the Advanced Manufacturing, Mechatronics, and Quality Consortium (AMMQC) initiative, launched in late 2013, was to enhance job training programs in advanced manufacturing by shifting towards a career pathways approach to training and by aligning training programs with employer demand. The AMMQC included four community colleges in four different states.

AMMQC aimed to transform training in the advanced manufacturing sector by incorporating career pathways components that would enable non-traditional students greater access to training and careers in middle-skill occupations and meet the needs of local and regional employers. The AMMQC model emphasized employer engagement, partner coordination, curriculum development, student support, and job placement services, technology-enabled learning, and alignment of curricula with industry-recognized credentials.

Components of the intervention focused on three strategies:

  1.  Develop and implement stacked and latticed credential and degree pathways in the advanced manufacturing fields of mechatronics and quality control that use work-based learning, meet industry-driven competencies, have clear entry and exit points, and build on regional assets.
  2. Create new online and technology-enabled courses in the advanced manufacturing fields of mechatronics and quality control (and build on existing ones) that promote self-paced learning and allow students to develop hands-on skills.
  3. Link emerging competency-based pathways across states and colleges through new articulation agreements that facilitate access and accelerate paths toward credential attainment.

Population served AMMQC focused on improving access to training for nontraditional students, especially TAA-eligible individuals, veterans, and other displaced workers.

Major Findings & Recommendations

Our evaluation of AMMQC suggests that career pathways programs funded through the grant held significant potential to transform the educational and labor market landscape of the participating regions. Students appreciated the potential of the programs to lead them to successful careers, particularly if plenty of support existed to smooth difficulties and facilitate transitions between programs. Employers appreciated the quality of the programs and the availability of a qualified workforce. However, there is still much more progress to be made. Key barriers still exist, including:

  • Political and institutional barriers to bridging noncredit and credit programs;
  • Lack of online learning options and limited use of modified course formats that would be quicker for nontraditional students to complete;
  • Inconsistent availability of student support services, especially between noncredit and credit program participants;
  • Inconsistent staffing;
  • Insufficient time to gauge results of credit program enhancements within the grant period; and
  • Lack of tracking systems.

These remaining difficulties suggest that career pathways development is a complex endeavor that requires considerable time to complete, and then requires constant adjustment and monitoring. Furthermore, TAACCCT was enacted during a difficult period when higher education experienced 134 significant cuts in funding and when funding for the public workforce development system declined dramatically as well. Against this backdrop of secular funding decline, and given the impending need to respond to the manufacturing skills gaps mentioned in Chapter 1, TAACCCT was a welcome respite insofar as it allowed some limited systems building. However, given the newness of career pathways development and the size of the task, much more ongoing (and stable) investment is needed so that the systems begun under TAACCCT continue to develop and flourish. Subsequent grant programs such as America’s Promise and TechHire will allow some of this to take place. However, there is a need to think structurally about this problem, and this can only happen with sustained investment over a relatively long period of time.