Customized for You: Apprenticeships and the Open Lab Model

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The image of the American master blacksmith at the turn of the 20th century, accompanied by an attentive young apprentice at his side to observe, has received a long overdue upgrade, courtesy of Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC).

In fall 2015, the College launched the Metal Working Apprenticeship program and introduced a nationally-recognized, competency-based model designed for students at all levels of ability. The focus in the machining, metal working and computer numerical control (CNC) professions is shifting to this new customized approach and away from the historically more passive apprenticeship model that depends upon a standard number of training hours upon completion.

The NICC competency-based apprenticeship allows you as a student of any age to apply previous experience, start on a machining project in your comfort zone and work on individual projects under the direction of faculty and an employer sponsor. Unlike the antiquated apprenticeship model commonly in use during the 20th century, there is no standard amount of hours apprentices must complete to earn journeyman and master credentials – the focus at the College is on measureable competencies. Employer sponsors want their best machinists to enhance their skills on projects specific to their individual industries.

Similarly, NICC has introduced an open lab model for the CNC program at the Peosta campus, as well as at its Cresco Center, to offer flexible training options for students, rather than a set classroom/lab time schedule, according to Dan Parker, CNC instructor.

“The open labs allow students to come and go when their schedules will allow. Students can work on specific projects and participate in the Metal Working Apprenticeship program through employer sponsors and are able to gain training for their specific needs,” Parker said. “Open labs and apprenticeships allow for me to accommodate individualized one-on-one time with each student, which greatly impacts their learning.”

In August 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) selected NICC as a Sector of Excellence in Apprenticeships leader for U.S. advanced manufacturing. The federal designation is a result of the College’s successful collaboration with the DOL in developing and implementing competency-based apprenticeships in metal working at NICC.

The Metal Working Apprenticeship program at NICC comprises three advanced manufacturing occupations: Tool and Die Maker, CNC Set-Up Programmer-Milling and Turning, and Mold Maker. These Standards of Apprenticeship were developed in accordance with the basic standards recommended by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship, and were successfully implemented by the Upper Mississippi Manufacturing Innovation Center at the College.

Learn more about apprenticeships by visiting
www.nicc.edu/apprenticeship and explore a career in CNC at www.nicc.edu/cnc!

Takeaways

The focus in the machining, metal working and computer numerical control (CNC) professions is shifting to this new customized approach …

In August 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) selected NICC as a Sector of Excellence in Apprenticeships leader for U.S. advanced manufacturing.

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