Promoting Success in Integrated Education and Training: An interview with Amber Stancher from Mid-State Technical College
Below is an abbreviated transcript of the recorded interview with Amber Stancher from Mid-State Technical College. This article is a 10-minute read.
BEN KONRUFF, HOST: Alright. This is WTCS voices. I am Ben Konruff.
Today I am joined by Amber Stancher. Amber is the Dean of adult education and learning resources at Mid-State Technical College and has developed a series of integrated education and training (IET) opportunities for students. These offerings provide adult education or English language learning contextually and concurrently with occupational training and workforce preparation to get students on a career pathway. Amber welcome to WTCS Voices.
AMBER STANCHER: Thank you, for having me.
Developing Integrated and Education Training Programs
KONRUFF: First, can you share a bit about the IET offerings at Mid-State? Specifically, what career pathways do they align with, and how is the IET offered?
STANCHER: I’ll focus on three different IET programs that we have offered in the past that were set up in different ways. Our previous IETs were offered in machine tool, culinary, and the criminal justice areas. The machine tool pre apprenticeship program was a 14 week-accelerated program allowing participants to earn 12 credit towards the machine tool technician program, entry level skills for employment, and to start towards entering the apprenticeship program. The adult education support was scheduled on a weekly basis throughout the program. The culinary IET was an accelerated program that was taught at Sand Valley Golf Resort (Sand Valley Culinary Institute), allowing participants to earn 10 credits towards a culinary arts and hospitality programs and entry level skills in an internship at Sand Valley. Adult education services were offered in two different formats. We offered an employability skills course prior to the start of the program. This allowed us time to start the conversation about the soft skills desired by the employer, and we also assessed the math skills of participating students. Throughout the program we had an additional time for adult education faculty member to work with students on the math skills needed in the program as it related back to the curriculum. An example of this is the math involved in menu planning. The criminal justice IET was offered throughout the semester. It concentrated on the writing skills needed within the criminal justice program. The adult education offerings were scheduled on a weekly basis. Both the English Composition I faculty member and the occupational faculty coordinated assignments and supports to make this a successful partnership.
KONRUFF: Great. Can you talk next a little bit about how you identify and select your IET career pathways? Is there consideration from employers or the use of labor market data? What are some of those things that you look at?
STANCHER: The pre-apprenticeship machine tool training program was made possible through a partnership with the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board and the Job Center of Wisconsin. Machine tool was identified as a need in the area based on labor, market data and employer feedback and our WIOA partners provide the tuition funding for the program participants. The culinary program IET was identified through a partnership with Sand Valley Golf Resort. When discussing the needs of the employer, our grant and contract administrator and Director of Workforce and Professional Development identified a grant opportunity that would help meet the employers need. Through discussions with Mid-State staff, including the faculty and Sand Valley staff, math support was identified as the IET need to make the program successful. In the corrections IET offering we use program data and occupational faculty input to identify the area that students struggled in. Through the data and conversations it was clear that students needed adult education instruction in writing in addition to the English Composition I class required by the program.
KONRUFF: That is great. It sounds like data and collaboration were key to designing or creating your IET career pathways. Can you talk a bit more about how you designed your IET instruction and support services? Specifically, who was at the table and what was the process like?
STANCHER: The initial meetings involve multiple internal staff that included members from grants, workforce development, Deans, faculty, and institutional research. In the case of the Sand Valley, the chef was also involved in the initial conversations. After the need and schedule of the IET support was determined, the occupational faculty and adult education faculty work closely together to develop assignments that included the occupational content that met the adult education competencies. Relevancy of assignments is crucial to the IET program. This collaboration allowed for the adult education assignments to build up to the occupational assignments that needed to be submitted. This way the student isn’t doing anything extra necessarily, but they’re building a deeper understanding of the foundational skills in reading, writing, or math, producing a better-quality product, and having an overall better educational experience. This partnership and collaboration naturally leads to higher completion and retention rates.
Recruitment and Marketing for IET Program Students
KONRUFF: Awesome! So with your IET designed and created, that pathway put together, can you talk a little bit about how you recruit and market your IET program programming? And who is your target audience to get students engaged?
STANCHER: We have various ways of marking IET programs. In the Adult Education Department we provide flyers, phone calls, and emails for current program participants. A high school credential is not always a requirement for the IET being offered, so programs that have the built-in support can be an easier transition for GED/HSED students. IET offerings also are a great way for our students working towards a secondary diploma to utilize Ability to Benefit (ATB) funds to transition into a college level program while still making progress towards their GED or HSED. Our WIOA partners also help promote our IET offerings. Our workforce development area has regularly scheduled meetings throughout the year. During these meetings, we share marketing materials that can be dispersed to program participants. In many cases, this is in email format and shared during individual appointments. Throughout the district, we have regularly scheduled radio spots. When an IET is being offered, we talk about the upcoming opportunities and the benefits of participating. Press releases and being highlighted on the local news have also been used as ways to spread the word. We also promote “Meet Me” events that allow students to come in and meet an outreach coordinator, faculty member or business partner so that they can learn more about the program and the employer connections.
KONRUFF: Alright, so the last question I have really relates to assessment and evaluation of your IET offerings. So how does Mid-State assess its current IET for success? Are there any specific data or stories you want to provide that highlight the success of your IET?
STANCHER: Program completion and retention is often the topic talked about throughout the college. When we piloted the IET that was embedded within the criminal justice program, the data showed greater completion and retention rates. With any type of pilot that has success, the next step is to expand and eventually scale the practice. Success to me in this case is the overwhelming support and interest of the academic Deans and faculty to include IETs in their program areas. We are now looking in embedding reading skills, support in the medical assistant program with a focus on medical terminology. We will be embedding math support in the welding area with a focus on math for manufacturing. All the IET focus areas were determined by program review data that includes a breakdown of course completion within a program pulled from Tableau Dashboards provided by WTCS. This allows us to target where the students are struggling and develop a plan on how we can help them succeed.
Employment is always another great indicator that the IET was successful. That being said, my favorite memory so far of 2021 was watching two of the students from the machine tool pre-apprenticeship program walk across the stage during our Spring 2021 graduation ceremony. These two gentlemen started the pre-apprenticeship program letting it be known that they did not feel like they were college material. At the end of the program they repeatedly thanked the adult education faculty member for helping them with the math involved with machine tool and her general support and encouragement that they could do it. Due to the relationship that they developed with the faculty member, they continued to reach out for tutoring support throughout their program and really checked in with adult education staff. One of the greatest benefits of an IET at an individual student level is that it adds an additional feeling of support for the student and normalizes getting support if they need tutoring or advising during future semesters. The utilization of college resources by IET participant is just another measure of IET success.
KONRUFF: That’s great Amber. Thank you so much for sharing that with us and for talking with us today. It’s really exciting to hear about this amazing work at Mid-State Technical College and we hope that it’s valuable to not only our colleges but also other providers of adult education, including community-based organizations as they develop future and enhance current integrated education and training. Thank you again, Amber.
STANCHER: Thank you, Ben.