NSF awards Northark $616K
Posted Date: 6/8/23

North Arkansas College was notified it was selected by the National Science Foundation to receive a grant in the amount of $616,520. The award will support development of a competency based, modular (CBM) instructional delivery for Northark’s Automation and Systems Integration, Electronics Technology, and Manufacturing programs.

“We are thrilled that our project was selected for funding,” says Nell Bonds, dean of technical and outreach programs. “I want to give a big thank you to everyone involved in helping prepare the grant proposal, as well as those who will be involved in this work going forward.”

Northark aims to increase the number of highly skilled Advanced Manufacturing Electronics technicians by developing and delivering competency-based, hybrid instructional modules (CBM) as an alternative to the traditionally scheduled, on-campus Automation and Systems Integration and Electronics Technology programs. Dean Bonds explained the impact of the program, “the new flexibly scheduled and paced training options will increase program accessibility, expand the talent pool, improve alignment with employer needs, and allow rapid deployment of updated content using newly developed modules to upskill current technicians.”

Plans include converting technical courses in the existing Electronics Technology certificate program into a modular, competency-based curriculum, with co-leadership by the Advanced Manufacturing Business and Industry Leadership Team and adapting curricula content for online, remote, and virtual delivery methods. An open lab environment will be developed for competency-based assessment of hands-on skills. The project will provide a more flexible program of study for rural students and incumbent workers, resulting in an increase in the number and diversity of highly prepared technicians while increasing the employee pipeline for key regional employers. In addition, student recruitment into new flexible education and training programs will provide formative feedback to improve the public image of manufacturing careers.

Primarily designed to meet the urgent needs of Northark’s regional employers, educators anticipate this program can be a model for employers across the nation who may utilize the project’s content while providing a site for the hands-on skills assessments.

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