Systemic Change Through Process Technology

The tri-state region of Pennsylvania (PA), West Virginia, and Ohio has a high density of industries that require a technologically skilled workforce; in particular, highly-skilled and well-educated process technicians. To address this need, the Community College of Beaver County in collaboration with local high schools, the Beaver County Career and Technical Center, five community colleges in Texas, and four regional industry partners are developing an associate degree in process technology. Regional assets to support this effort include the necessary infrastructure for expansion of the types of industries that employ process technicians, abundant natural resources, human capital, and existing industries. The college is geographically located in the center of two prime shale natural gas resource areas and close to a chemical, energy, and manufacturing corridor. Existing petrochemical facilities include NOVA Chemicals and BASF and a site targeted by Shell Oil for the construction of an ethane cracker plant. The goal of the project is to identify and prepare a diverse human capital stream to meet the current and future process technology industry needs in the tri-state region. Specific objectives are to (1) enhance and develop industrial and community partnerships; (2) adopt, customize, and implement a Texas-based process technology curriculum; (3) develop a Career Pathways Program for high school students, and articulation agreements with four-year colleges and universities; and (4) increase enrollment and retention of women in process technology programs.

The curriculum is being made available to 14 community colleges in PA and other institutions in the tri-state region. The Career Pathways Program and articulations may be adapted and adopted by other process technology programs across the nation at high schools, community colleges and universities. In addition to regional and state-wide partnerships, the college has strong networks across the United States through the Strategic Horizons Network, Achieving the Dream, the American Association of Community Colleges and the League for Innovation in the Community College. Project knowledge is being shared through presentations at regional and national conferences and by hosting delegations with similar program interests. In collaboration with the National Institute for Women in Trades & Technology, the college is developing outreach and recruitment efforts to increase enrollment of female students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields to benefit society as a whole.

The Texas-based North American Process Technology Alliance curriculum, developed under an ATE grant, is being adapted to include an associate degree, stackable credentials, and non-credit articulations to allow graduates to start or stop out at different points. It is being customized for competency-based, hybrid delivery for inclusion of incumbent workers. The project is also developing a Career Pathways Program for middle-school and high-school students through the creation of Career Awareness Workshops and dual enrollment opportunities for recruitment. Networks of support from higher education, industry and government are critically important to the recruitment and retention of all students in technology and engineering programs. The curriculum is designed to provide a broad base of mathematics, science, computer literacy, process technology, soft skills (reliability, leadership, communication, and conflict resolution) and hands-on mechanical aptitude development.

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