Microcredentialing for the Unmanned Aerial Systems Workforce
Unmanned aerial systems, sometimes referred to as drone technologies, are becoming a major economic sector nationally and worldwide. A highly-skilled, diverse workforce is needed to support this emerging sector. To meet this need, Mohawk Valley Community College will develop an educational model using microcredentials. These microcredentials will document mastery of specific knowledge and skills related to the unmanned aerial systems industry, and "stack" to enable flexible training pathways. This strategy has the potential to help students develop initial competencies, while motivating them to persist toward a certificate or degree. The project will develop curricula for one-semester microcredentials, two-year degrees, and adapt these materials to support noncredit education in technician fields. Close collaborations with the local unmanned aerial systems industry cluster will help ensure that the curriculum meets industry needs. The project team will also work with the industry partners to develop hands-on lab and field exercises, and to foster student internship opportunities. The curriculum and materials developed in this project will be openly available for adaptation or replication at other institutions. The project has the potential to create resources that support education of the unmanned aerial systems workforce across the nation.
The project will aim to develop curriculum for six microcredentials; develop curriculum for two new associate degrees; refine the existing associate degree to align with categories of the microcredentials; and leverage these materials to support courses in unmanned aerial systems applications for emergency services, inspection, and agriculture. The curriculum will focus on preparing students to manufacture and repair unmanned aerial systems as well as analyze data collected on missions. The new associate degrees will be offered in Unmanned Aerial Systems Fabrication and in Unmanned Aerial Systems Electronics. In the new program structure, the microcredentials will be transferable between the degree tracks and accumulation of four microcredentials will be sufficient for students to earn the relevant associate degree. Project-based learning will be integrated through hands-on, industry-relevant student capstone and other projects. The courses will be designed to serve as pathways for current workers toward microcredentials or employment in the unmanned aerial systems sector. The project will conduct extensive outreach and recruitment of underrepresented populations to increase diversity in this technician field. The effectiveness of using microcredentials to address specific workforce skills and gaps will also be evaluated to determine if it can rapidly produce a skilled and diverse technical workforce. The results of the project will be broadly disseminated to assist other colleges in replicating and adapting the use of microcredentials for the unmanned aerial systems sector as well as other high-technology academic and workforce sectors.