Astrid S. Tuminez and Clay Christensen: Technical education collaboration creates upward mobility for more Utahns
The modern workforce is changing at a pace that rivals the great industrial revolutions of centuries past, with major technological disruptions happening every few years. In Utah, the nation’s fourth-fastest-growing state, there is a dire need to ensure that our burgeoning population is equipped with the knowledge, mastery, and resources necessary to adapt and succeed in an ever-evolving work environment. As educators, particularly in our booming service region of Utah, Summit, and Wasatch counties, a great deal of this responsibility rests on our shoulders.
Technological change will impact nearly everyone in the modern workforce and influence our approach in just about every academic discipline. However, perhaps the greatest opportunity to create large-scale impact on Utah’s workforce today is through advancements in technical education.
In 2017, Utah Valley University (UVU) and Mountainland Technical College (MTECH) began working in lockstep to create common-sense, articulated education pathways to foster continuity between institutions. That continuity enables students to progress more easily through articulated degree programs such as information technology, nursing, digital media, and others.
Historically, higher education institutions develop program pathways in isolation, creating certificate and degree pathways that are not aligned, which complicates student transfer. At a base level, we knew this was not enough — we needed more alignment between programs. For students and our region to truly flourish, we needed to overhaul the way the programs were facilitated between the two schools.
To facilitate effective articulations, it is imperative that the work is a student-focused, faculty-driven, staff-supported process. UVU has heavily invested toward this end, hiring a director of articulated programs and workforce development, while creating a team that meets monthly to monitor and assess the efficacy of these programs.
The commitment from both institutions allows faculty to align program curriculum between the institutions, creating a seamless pathway for students. The articulated pathways enable students to achieve technical competencies at MTECH and then transfer to UVU without losing any time or credit toward their end degree. The articulated pathways serve our area employers by focusing on in-demand skills and professional disciplines.
From the beginning of this initiative it was abundantly clear that all the staff and faculty support could not be siloed within UVU and MTECH’s respective campuses. Articulations between institutions do not benefit students who are not aware of the options available to them. With advisory staff assigned to split time between the institutional campuses, students can receive support to make informed decisions and easily access degree pathway options at both MTECH and UVU.
Clearly designed pathways allow students to avoid educational cul-de-sacs which would otherwise force them to repeat requirements when transferring between institutions. Students articulating from MTECH to UVU are now able to optimize their course loads in a way that makes transferring credits between the schools far more seamless.
Students can’t afford to waste time and money earning useless credits. Moreover, MTECH’s concurrent enrollment program allows students to begin working on technical programs in high school, so the next generation of Utah’s workforce can start even earlier.
UVU and MTECH’s new technical education articulations are still in their infancy. Although we have a number of students who have already articulated from MTECH to UVU in these new pathways, this commitment between the two schools will yield its most impactful results in the years to come. Through this partnership, we are confident that our shared service region, and Utah’s workforce as a whole, will be far better prepared for the technological shifts that are sure to come in the 2020s and beyond.
Astrid S. Tuminez is president of Utah Valley University.
Clay Christensen is president of Mountainland Technical College.