Snow trustees review ramped up offerings for tech degrees

EPHRAIM—The Snow College Board of Trustees has endorsed technical-education (TE) programs offering certificates of proficiency in auto technology, diesel technology and industrial technology. 

The action by the trustees at a meeting March 19 signifies a new emphasis on TE at Snow and is in step with various state economic opportunity priorities, such as helping young people move into good-paying jobs through short-term programs and meeting helping industry fill jobs.

Stacee McIff, interim vice president for technical education, said the programs presented to the trustees would be offered in Richfield this fall.

However, she said, Snow is working on creating pathways that will enable students to begin the programs at high schools throughout the Six-County Area.

She mentioned that the auto tech program is accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation and Automotive Service Excellence.

She said the industrial technology program would actually serve as an umbrella for five different programs. Those will be in composites, industrial mechanics, machine-tool technology, welding, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

And McIff said Snow plans to formulate still more TE programs, some of which will be housed in Ephraim and some of which will eventually be on-line.

Reflecting state government priorities, the programs are financed on a 90/10 formula—90 percent state-funded and 10 percent from tuition.

McIff talked about how Snow is “trying to focus on industry engagement.” All Snow TE programs will have industry advisory committees, which will meet two times per year. And faculty in the programs will be required to have continuous industry engagement.

“Part of the assessment for program success will be how well our programs are meeting industry needs, especially…industry needs directly in the central Utah region,” she said.

 “The curriculum might change with some frequency depending on what is needed in industry. Our connection with business and industry is vital in keeping the curriculum current.”

McIff said certificates of proficiency are not available at Utah technical colleges, so Snow is using its status as both a degree-granting institution and a technical college to combine the best of both worlds.

Currently, technical colleges in Utah do not offer courses for college credit. But in the Snow programs, “everything we offer will be for credit,” McIff said.

Snow has structured the three programs it presented to the trustees so as to break the task of earning a certificate of proficiency into small chunks.

Someone may start at the beginning of a pathway and earn one short credential and then step out into industry and work, McIff said.

“If that person wants to improve skills or acquire more credentials for a better employment opportunity, he/she can ‘step back in’ and continue on the educational pathway,” she said.

In most associate-degree programs with a TE focus, students take general education courses alongside their technical courses.

But in the new TE programs Snow is setting up, students will take technical course first so they can get into industry immediately. All of the TE certificates are designed to be “go-to-work” degrees, she said.

But “because we offer all TE courses for credit, these courses can easily be leveraged into an AS (associate of science) or AAS (associate of applied science) with the addition of general education,” she said.

 The Utah State Board of Regents has assigned Snow College, SLCC, and USU Eastern to fulfill both a degree-granting mission and a TE mission in the state, McIff noted.

SLCC and USU Eastern have been already been working in that capacity, she said, but Snow College is just beginning its delivery of TE programs. 

McIff explained why the college is combining what appear to be five different TE areas under the umbrella of industrial technology.

In the past, the various programs granted their own certificates, and if students continued beyond the certificate, the programs granted their own associate of applied science (AAS) degrees.

Now the AAS degree can be obtained by completing two certificates of proficiency in different areas, plus limited GE, McIff said.

“We heard from industry representatives that they are looking for employees who have experience and training in a variety of skills. So a person could complete both a welding certificate of proficiency and a machine tool technology certificate of proficiency, then take some GE and get the AAS in industrial technology.

McIff noted that many Utah technical colleges use a flexible schedule that permits students to begin programs at multiple points throughout the year, not just at the official beginning of a semester. This flexibility uses a competency-based delivery model, McIff wrote in the program description.

“We are working towards this model in some of the technical education programs and also in some general education curriculum,” she said.