“Upside-down” programs allow students to transfer accredited technical training, work experience, military training, or community college coursework as credit toward a bachelor’s degree. Expansion of such programs, with emphasis on manufacturing-related fields, will reduce barriers between skills training and degree attainment, and enhance the quality of the manufacturing workforce.”- Milstein Symposium Building a Nation of Makers
Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have traditionally succeeded by combining practical production knowledge with technical expertise and business acumen. The blend of practical, technical and managerial that typifies these firms is not the result of a 4 year college program. While technical and managerial knowledge can be obtained in college coursework, obtaining practical production type skills are gained in another path.
According to the Milstein Symposium report, “More troubling is that students are given little incentive to connect these two tracks. Colleges and universities frequently do not offer transfer credit for technical skills acquired either on the job, in community colleges, in the military, or through training.”
To overcome this disconnect, they propose an expansion of upside-down degrees.
An “upside-down” program essentially inverts the traditional four-year college model. Upside-down students start with the focused technical training and then take the broader coursework to both expand their knowledge base and enhance their critical thinking (see diagram above).
An “upside down’ program would entail academic credit / recognition for varying combinations of:
These could be counted as up to two years of college credit.
Students then need only complete the remaining coursework to earn a bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution.
Upside- down degrees can provide an excellent means of integrating the skills needed by employees at todays advanced manufacturing SMEs- technical, practical, and managerial/academic.
We think that this idea is worth considering. We know that it works- as many of our PMPA member companies provide support for continuing education of both technical and college subjects.
Upside- down degrees
For more details on upside-down degrees see idea #2 (page 16 of the PDF) at the Milstein Report on PMPA’s homepage.