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Topics and Actions for Occupational Programs

  • By law, all occupational programs are required to recruit and maintain active advisory boards. Boards must meet at least once each year. A program’s advisory board should help shape the direction of program offerings to meet and anticipate changes in the workforce marketplace. Advisory boards can be powerful political and fund-raising allies in both normal and budget-restricted times.
  • Program review for occupational programs follows a two-year cycle mandated by law. The Program Review Committee is beginning to look at modifying this into a six-year cycle that would more closely resemble the six-year cycle for academic programs and would be less onerous for all parties. Initial thoughts on this subject appear to center around the notion of one major review by Program Review Committee every six years, and two minor reviews within the cycle by advisory boards. Not all programs may be eligible for a revised cycle due to accreditation issues. Occupational Education Committee will begin to work with Program Review on this matter.
  • The definition of student success and program success in the vocational arena needs to be addressed and changed to reflect the nature of such education. Current definitions of success in occupational programs are closely patterned after the academic transfer model. When large numbers of students enter a program and few finish with degrees or certificates, the program looks on paper like a failure. In reality, many of the departing students leave to begin jobs for which partial completion of the program has prepared them, or to resume jobs in which one or two specialized courses have given them additional competency. An institutional redefinition of success in occupational programs is in order. To support such a redefinition, the tracking of students into the workplace is of paramount importance now more than ever. While some tracking information may, of necessity remain anecdotal, hard data will provide the best argument for maintaining and growing vocational programs.
  • Student tracking should begin as soon as students enter a program. Set tracking criteria and begin with survey at first class meeting. Minimum data should include incoming student goals and some means of keeping in touch as students move through the program and out into the workplace. Need to establish procedures for updating changing goals and reclassifying students when they leave.
  • Is it possible to have a joint awarding of certificates between partner colleges in cases where students transfer and complete certificates at the other institution? How would FTE's be assigned/distributed in such instances?
  • Too few occupational students declare majors in their field of study, often completing their studies with the major they declared upon initial enrollment in the college. While not in itself a solid indicator of program strength (the college tracks actual courses completed when it looks at student demographics), the numbers of declared majors in occupational programs may give indicators of student intent and may be one of many markers that can be measured in the analysis of program strength. Declarations of major can be updated easily by students on-line (from SMC Homepage go to Admissions > Student Self-service System).
  • Numbers of special status students, including F1 students, may be relevant in any discussion of the cost-effectiveness of a program.
  • VTEA grants are a major source of occupational program support. The survey forms distributed to classes in mid-semester are extremely important, not only in the grant application/distribution process, but also because they may be able to provide useful statistical information about program demographics. VTEA funding (Perkins grants) are in jeopardy after ’03-‘04 as the White House hopes to reallocate the money to K-12. A letter-writing campaign to Congress by advisory boards may be vital.
  • Partnerships with industry, above and beyond advisory boards, are crucial for spotting workplace trends, as job placement vehicles, and as sources for program underwriting.
  • Student recruiting and counseling can be done more effectively in conjunction with the Counseling Department and also by programs themselves. The possibility of counseling fairs exists, as does linking of specific counselors to specific programs (including in-program training of counselors) and special counseling seminars held by programs to better familiarize interested and current students with course offerings and progress strategies. Some of these ideas will be difficult to implement under a reduced budget, but some may only require a little faculty time, the payoff for which may be reduced time spent on repetitive individual counseling; in any case, they are good ideas for the future.
  • Occupational programs need to become more attentive to the public relations aspect of survival. SMC is well thought of for its academic transfer record. Occupational programs are putting students into the work force now, bolstering the state's economy now, and providing for students an income basis for further study and potential transfer in the future to higher learning institutions in the state. Occupational programs need to publicize their successes both to the rest of the college community and into the larger community beyond the campus and claim a right to exist into the future.