April Good News: Part 2

Woman typing at a laboratory desk.
Rebecca A. Eckland

Applied Technologies Receives Grant to Fund New Program

TMCC’s Technical Sciences division will have additional tools to help build a skilled workforce for the New Nevada thanks to a $439,620 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The idea for the “New Nevada Virtual Media Learning Project” began when Applied Technologies staff Pat Jarvis helped with a tour of the William N. Pennington Applied Technology Center for a group of visiting high school students from Las Vegas. “When we got to the Advanced Manufacturing lab, one of the students raised his hand and asked me if we have to do this work all over again. I asked him what he meant. Apparently, the students were already completing some of the same lab work in their high school CTE classes,” said Jarvis. 

After a “DACUM” (a.k.a.: “developing a curriculum”) review with local employers and TMCC instructors, the answer to the question of “what can we do to help?” started to become clearer: employers are looking for employees with technical skills and soft skills. This is when the New Nevada Virtual Media Learning Project took shape. It is a three-part program that will not only ease the pathway for high school students into TMCC’s Associate of Applied Science degree in Advanced Manufacturing but also provide young students with the skills they will need throughout their careers. 

The first component of the New Nevada Virtual Media Learning Project offers high school students an opportunity to earn articulated and/or dual credit for some of the Advanced Manufacturing classes which are completed at their respective high schools. Completion of certain courses may also result in an entry-level technical certificate, the first step in a “stackable” degree pathway in Advanced Manufacturing. The NSF grant will also provide funds for augmented reality, virtual media, and/or electronic training materials to make Advanced Manufacturing classes more accessible.

The final component of the grant came from the employers themselves who would like to see training in “soft skills.” According to a definition offered by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, “soft skills” demonstrate requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition to the workplace. They typically include critical thinking, problem-solving, both written and verbal communication skills, leadership, career management, and intercultural fluency, to name a few examples. 

Soft-skills training will be embedded into the existing curriculum so students will not have to take additional classes. For example, a lab focused on a technical topic will also ask students to learn about teamwork, and to provide examples and exercises on how to work on a team within the context of the class. This process enables students to understand what these skills are as well as to provide specific examples of when they used those skills. So, the next time a potential employer asks: “Can you give me an example of when you had to work on a team?” during a job interview, the student can provide a concrete and specific response. 

“Students who go through this program will have the ability to do more than use their technical skills to complete their job duties. They will also have the skills to move forward in their careers and their lives,” said Sidney Sullivan, Program Manager of the TMCC Career Hub, who was integral to writing this part of the grant. 

The new program will also open doors for potential students to pursue more career and professional development opportunities. As students proceed through the program, they have the opportunity to earn “stackable” milestones: a Skills Certificate, a Certificate of Achievement, which can lead to the Associate of Applied Science in Manufacturing Technologies, and, with an additional two years, the Bachelor of Applied Science in Cyber-Physical Manufacturing. 

“This new program addresses a critical need for competent technicians within Nevada’s manufacturing fields. This important work will allow students in the program to obtain employment in technical fields which will lift families and communities while broadening the diversity of our workforce,” said Interim Dean of Applied Technologies Barb Walden. 

For more information about studying in the Applied Technologies at TMCC, contact the division at 775-856-5300.

TMCC President Gives TEDx Talk

Recently, TMCC President Dr. Karin Hilgersom presented at a TEDx event held at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her presentation, “Wisdom, the New Economy, and the American Dream” offers an inspirational look at the evolving economy with a message that urges employers to take a second look at older (aged 65 and above) workers. “Aging doesn’t equal incompetence,” she suggests; rather, age is a construct like race or ethnicity. What matters for the changing economy is innovation, creativity, and determination.

“TED” stands for the topics typically covered at a TEDx event: technology, entertainment, and design. TEDxUniversityofNevada is an independently organized event, and Dr. Hilgersom joined nineteen other speakers that covered diverse topics including how to be an ideal team player, the importance of fathers, the relationship between physical appearance and social inequality, among many others.

Hilgersom began her talk by evoking the phrase “the American Dream,” which was coined by historian James Treslo Adams, who in 1931 popularized the phrase through his book, The Epic of America. His definition of the phrase, “...that land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” doesn’t sound too far off the mark of our 2020 definition of it. In fact, the idea perpetuates today with both young and old, a point that Dr. Hilgersom articulates throughout her presentation.

Innovations in technology will not shrink the workforce, but instead, require more skilled workers. She compares our current moment—on the cusp of robotics, AI and other new technologies—to the moment when email was launched. “It was supposed to make our lives so much easier,” she said, knowing that the opposite occurred. In fact, the average person spends more than five hours per day checking and responding to email. That new technology created more work, not less.

“When you really think about it, new technology creates more jobs, not fewer,” she said. In addition to the skill sets required by these new technologies, older workers will also carry with them valuable skill sets, such as the ability to balance one’s emotions and to consider problems from multiple perspectives. “To remain competitive in a robotics-driven economy, we need to embrace all sectors of the workforce who are willing to be innovative, creative and hard workers,” she said—only then can we truly honor the legacy of the American dream. 

Watch Dr. Hilgersom’s full TEDx talk on YouTube