A Profitable Synergy: Higher education and industrial training

A Profitable Synergy
Higher education and industrial training

By Dr. J. Robert Mueller

In the competitive world of today, many businesses have found it desirable, if not necessary, to implement rigorous employee training programs in a variety of subjects. Training courses in supervision, management, leadership, computer applications, security, quality assurance/quality control, and a large assortment of technical disciplines abound. This article discusses the natural synergy between industrial training programs in aircraft maintenance and a national association that provides academic credit recommendations for quality training.

The Association
The American Council on Education is an independent, national association that acknowledges the fact that noncollegiate sponsored instruction can be comparable, in content, degree of difficulty, and level of instruction, to courses delivered at a college or university through its College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE/CREDIT). The primary mission is to provide assistance to those organizations that wish to receive college level credit for industry-sponsored instruction.

How does an organization obtain credit recommendations for training it provides? First, the organization must apply to have its courses reviewed. After appropriate completion of the necessary materials, a review team composed of faculty evaluators from appropriate academic disciplines is assembled at the sponsoring organization's site. The group evaluates the material content of training programs and courses, degree of difficulty, duration, and various other elements, and assigns academic credit recommendations to each course.

Credit recommendations may be assigned in any of four categories: 1) vocational certificate; 2) lower division baccalaureate/associate degree; 3) upper division baccalaureate, or 4) graduate. These recommendations are then published in "The National Guide To Educational Credit For Training Programs," which officially informs institutions of higher education of the formal review and credit recommendations. Approximately 2,000 colleges and universities across the United States accept such academic credit recommendations.

Although the preparation of the courses for formal review along with the supporting documents such as course syllabi, course description displays, course transcript descriptors, and quality assurance documents is detailed and rigorous, the benefits achieved for both the company and its trainees are substantial.

The benefits
To site an example, let's assume that the average per credit tuition cost at a nearby college is $200, that a company's training courses received an academic credit recommendation of 25 credit hours, and that 50 employees complete the training courses each year. In this case, by having had its training evaluated by ACE/CREDIT, the employees/trainees will have earned 25 hours of credit toward an associates or baccalaureate degree, and the company will save $250,000 annually in tuition reimbursement expenses.

A spokesperson for Delta Air Lines, reported that his company has realized a potential return on investment of more than $1 million from tuition reimbursements savings as a result of transcribed ACE credit recommendations for maintenance training over the last three years. Many of our clients including nuclear utilities and the U.S.

Department of Energy's Savannah River Site have also reported substantial savings by having had their training programs reviewed by ACE/CREDIT.

Many companies also feel that the ACE/CREDIT process provides many tangible and intangible benefits such as national recognition of the quality of their training programs and greater employee retention. In the case of training companies and academies, the ACE credit recommendations are frequently used to attract students.
Participation in the ACE/CREDIT program also often acts as a catalyst to employees/trainees in the pursuit of additional education.

A substantial number of training programs offered by the Armed Forces of the United States have been reviewed and awarded academic credit recommendations by the American Council on Education. If your employees/trainees served in the military, and if your company also obtains ACE credit recommendations for your training programs, those individuals who have completed both military and corporate training will have earned a substantial amount of academic credit. By combining academic credit hour recommendations obtained from corporate and military training with credits earned at technical colleges and universities, the completion of an academic degree in the foreseeable future becomes a reality.

As we all know, a notable trend in higher education today is "on-line learning." Advertisements for course offerings by many institutions are everywhere and many universities have a wide range of courses that can be completed via on-line classes. In fact, it is now possible to complete a college degree in many subjects solely via on-line learning. The University of Maryland and the University of Phoenix are probably two of the best-publicized institutions with such capabilities.

A word of caution is in order however when dealing with unfamiliar "educational institutions." Unfortunately, as with other enterprises, American education is now plagued with degree mills - bogus colleges and universities that literally "sell" diplomas to unknowing individuals who wish to pursue a college degree. A good rule of thumb is: If it appears that an individual has very little work to do to complete a college degree, and, they are receiving a great deal of credit for "life experience," they may be about to purchase a worthless diploma! Most accredited colleges and universities require individuals to take at least 30 hours of academic credit from their institution, with these credit hours being primarily in the major course of study, if they are to award a degree.

To avoid becoming a victim of such fraud, a person should consult the latest version of the publication "Accredited Institutions of Post Secondary Education," (Edited by K. A. Von Alt and published by the American Council on Education), to verify an institution's accreditation.

Applicability to A&P technicians
The amount of training, and the scope and depth of knowledge to be mastered to earn certification as both an airframe and powerplant (A&P) technician is appreciable. A review of the subject matter mandated by FAA Part 147, clearly shows that much of this material, if properly organized and presented in appropriate course formats, is meritorious of academic credit recommendations by ACE. Such credit recommendations may be directly applicable to a degree in disciplines such as aviation science.

For example, FlightSafety International recently had 39 advanced airframe/powerplant/avionics maintenance training courses for a variety of aircraft reviewed by ACE/CREDIT. That review resulted in an outstanding academic credit recommendation award overall, and, for each aircraft-specific course, respectively. In this case, essentially all of the credit recommendations are in the upper division baccalaureate category, and are therefore, applicable to appropriate technical baccalaureate degree programs.

For those individuals working in this highly technical industry, a combination of formal education and quality industrial training may be the ideal scenario for obtaining an associate's or bachelor's degree, thus increasing career opportunities.

In summary, educational opportunities for the working adult abound throughout the United States and abroad. Many accredited colleges and universities are offering degrees using nontraditional instructional models such as traveling faculty, weekend-intensive courses, video and CD courses, on-line learning, etc. The ACE/CREDIT program is synergistic to such endeavors, and, to the efforts of employees/trainees in acquiring a higher education. Airframe and powerplant technical training programs are ideally suited to become part of this educational revolution for the adult learner.

Dr. J. Robert Mueller is president and chairman of American Triex Inc. He can be reached at jrmuelle@amtriex.com or 920-822-8340.