Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Deep Dive by Pros Changes CVTC Welding Curriculum

Process serves as example of how programs continually evolve

Eau Claire, WI – In the fall of 2019, a group of nine managers, engineers, manufacturing plant owners, floor supervisors and other experts gathered at Chippewa Valley Technical College to take a deep dive into what was being taught in the college’s Welding program.

The result was a restructured program for students enrolling in the fall 2020 semester and beyond. The changes place greater emphasis on the types of welding and related skills needed in the industry around the Chippewa Valley, with less emphasis on skills not as important in their industries.

It's not as if industry leaders were unhappy with the program. In fact, they depend on graduates to fill openings. Program reviews are a standard procedure at CVTC, although the intensive process of a full curriculum review does not take place every year.

“In academic institutions, the full process is called a DACUM, which is short for developing a curriculum. It normally takes one or two days and involves focus groups of professionals in the field as well as instructors and deans,” said Rachelle Phakitthong, director of curriculum and professional development. “We also have Advisory Committees for every program that advise the College on current developments and needs in their fields on an ongoing basis.”

Phakitthong added that DACUMs are usually held when developing a new program, or when there are changes in an industry that require a realignment of a curriculum. Program reviews to keep up with changes take place about every five years, though not all reviews result in a formal DACUM process.

Changes affect both the one-year Welding and the two-year Welding Fabrication technical diploma programs.

“One of the biggest changes is that our full-time program no longer has summer classes, but the part-time program has summer classes now,” said Chrystal Reidt, Welding program director. “And we have reduced the number of credits from 38 in the first year down to 32 credits. Students in the two-year program will graduate with 63 credits instead of 69.”

One area of reduced emphasis is shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), informally known as stick welding.

“We reduced our basic and advanced SMAW classes from 4 credits to 3 because those who took part in the DACUM didn't see the value in spending as much time in that process as we had before,” Reidt said. “They also expressed less need for FCAW (flux-cored arc welding), so we reduced that process in the advanced gas metal arc welding class.”

What the industry leaders wanted to see more of was skills in gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW),” Reidt said.

“GTAW is about 40 percent of what we do in welding, with about 60 percent GMAW,” said Jordan Back, welding supervisor at Catalytic Combustion in Bloomer.” Eric Hendzel, welding supervisor at Wisconsin Metal Fab in Chippewa Falls agreed that the two methods make up what they do as well.

An important area of emphasis for the industry leaders was blueprint reading.

“It seemed a lot of our entry level hires right out of school didn’t have a lot of experience with blueprint reading,” Back said.

“We can teach a lot of the technology that we use to make our products, but blueprint reading is a must for them to have,” Hendzel said.

Blueprint reading has long been a part of the CVTC program, but it will now receive greater emphasis.

Totally removed was a Forklift and Rigging class, as the industry leaders didn’t see the value in teaching forklift driving. The rigging portion was moved into another class, Reidt said. Other recommended changes were also made.

“The second-year Math for Tech Trades course has been replaced with a math class by the Welding department that is better aligned with the needs of our two-year students for their advanced fab class,” Reidt said.  “We merged two of the second-year classes into one called Welding Applications and Sense.”

“The end result of the DACUM is a program that is leaner for the students and better meets the needs of area employers,” said Jeff Sullivan, dean of apprenticeships, manufacturing, engineering, and IT.

The employers were happy to help improve the CVTC Welding program, which is an important source of skilled labor for them.

“For the most part, CVTC graduates are pretty good, but it comes down to gaining the experience,” Back said.

“We have hired about a half dozen of CVTC Welding graduates over the past five years or so,” Hendzel said. “The CVTC program is something quite beneficial to our industry.”

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