Are you preparing your students for the knowledge and skills that some employers want, or for what most employers need? How do you discern the difference? Does it really matter? National Skill Standards can help.
College faculty that are preparing technicians are encouraged to form, and listen to, an Advisory Committee that represents employers who are eager to hire their graduates. I have attended many of these Advisory Committee meetings and participated in discussions; some with useful outcomes, and some with very confusing information that does not benefit program content, or the student completers.
Asking the wrong question: Asking your Advisory Committee, “What do you want your new technicians to know and do?”, is like asking a young child, “What do you want for your birthday?”. The typical response is “Everything related to the specific operations and equipment at our facility.” Using this data can lead to creating a program that prepares students for a limited range of jobs. It can also lead to a curriculum with more specialty topics, labs and faculty than most colleges can afford.
Leading the employers: Meeting the technician requirements of most employers typically requires that your curriculum concentrate on the required knowledge and skills that are common to most or all employers. This requires a compromise that will probably not include narrow, specialty elements. These specialty items can usually be learned “on the job.” To begin this conversation with your Advisory Committee, I suggest that you ask them to review a model of knowledge and skills and comment on the content in terms of “What is essential?”, “What can be removed?”, and “What should be added?”. This model is described in OP-TEC’s National Skill Standards for Photonics Systems Technicians.