Aligning Students into Accelerated Pathways in Engineering, Technology, and Building Science
Developing accessible, flexible, and engaging STEM educational pathways is crucial to meeting the needs of the 21st century workforce. The STEM student demographic is shifting to include an increasing number of adult learners, including veterans, who come to college with a myriad of experiences and responsibilities well beyond those of recent high school graduates. Such adult students face multiple barriers to entry, retention, and completion of traditional STEM programs, yet they have existing STEM skills from prior work or military experience. In this project, South Seattle College, a two-year minority serving institution, will work with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, and industries to create a seamless transition from an Associate of Arts degree to a bachelor's program in Sustainable Building Science Technology. The project aims to establish an accelerated workforce development pathway for veterans and incumbent workers in the emerging field of building tune-up specialists. Building tune up is a process for increasing energy performance of building, by analyzing and adjusting the building?s electrical, mechanical, and other systems. This project will offer students authentic field experiences in building tune-up and will align existing STEM-related skills of veterans and incumbent workers to degree requirements by giving credit for work experiences in the field.
This project addresses common barriers to STEM recruitment and completion by 1) researching, developing, and implementing a STEM associate's degree that articulates into bachelor's degrees by aligning existing skills in engineering/technology/building science; 2) designing and offering STEM field experiences that expose undergraduates to retrofitting and tune-ups of commercial buildings; and 3) creating a network of community, industry, and educational partners to advance accelerated STEM degree programs. This project seeks to generate knowledge of how experiential learning projects that include real-life application can support the persistence and retention of students in the STEM fields. The methodology developed in this project for degree acceleration might be applied across multiple STEM disciplines. Graduates of the industry-relevant programs will work directly with facilities management, building science, and energy efficiency and conservation.