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Integrating Skill Standards to Achieve Competency

By John L. Bisol; MEd., Assistant Professor/Coordinator – Manufacturing Technology, Quinsigamond Community College

A major portion of certifying manufacturing competency is the employee’s ability to demonstrate knowledge of manufacturing processes.  In addition to vocational skills, manufacturing employment certification requires an educational foundation to include math, science, reading, writing, communications, IT, analysis, problem solving, teamwork, organization, planning, and basic technical skills – all in a manufacturing context.

The first step in the development of relevant course content for community colleges is learning to define objectives that meet the specific requirements for both certification and sustainable employment. Nationally recognized skill standards are the benchmarks used by instructors when defining objectives.

The National Council for Advanced Manufacturing, NAFCAM, is an industry-led, policy research organization, working collaboratively since 1989 with key leaders from industry, education, and government, to shape public policies and programs to make US manufacturing globally competitive. One goal of NAFCAM is to provide leadership and services through creating conditions for US industry to achieve higher levels of productivity, innovation, and competitiveness. As part of its overall mission NAFCAM publishes authoritative national and international data including manufacturing skills standards. These standards are contained in "competency" modules that are specifically designed to translate into educational objectives.

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) actively promotes these skill standards. 

For example, an Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model provides a tiered system of required skills for:

  • Personal Effectiveness Competencies
  • Academic Competencies
  • Workplace Competencies
  • Industry-Wide Technical Competencies
  • Industry Sector Technical Competencies
  • Occupation: Specific Knowledge Areas
  • Occupation: Specific Technical Competencies
  • Occupation: Specific Requirements
  • Management Competencies

The Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model serves as a dynamic, industry-driven framework for foundational competencies that are necessary for entry-level workers across all manufacturing sectors.1  Such a model framework demonstrates consistency across industries, but allows for customization within sectors, and easy updating, thereby accommodating changing technology and business practices.

A typical curriculum development effort would select the appropriate sustainable skills standard from the Advanced Manufacturing Model. Within that framework are competency statements (under general headings):

Fulfilling obligations – Behaves consistently and predictably; is reliable, responsible and dependable in fulfilling obligations; diligently follows through on commitments and consistently meets deadlines.2

The Instructor would assay the relevance of each skill standard statement based upon local needs and considerations for sustainable, transportable employment development.  In most cases, the standards are more than adequate for instructional purposes.  The Instructor would use that statement as part of the objectives to be mastered within the context of the course of study. The curriculum developed would therefore focus on the skill standards thereby assuring the student/employee has acquired the knowledge necessary to achieve certification. The standards (also) allow the Instructor to have measurable benchmarks for successful course completion.

A community college that embraces this methodology, (foundational standards cross-reference to curriculum development – in addition to the general subject matter in each course), allows the student to receive focused instruction based on nationally recognized skill standards that tie directly into an overall certification process.


John Bisol is presently the Program Coordinator for the Manufacturing Technology Department at Quinsigamond Community College. Prior to assuming his role as an instructor, Professor Bisol was a Mechanical Engineer by profession, and worked in numerous manufacturing facilities for over 20 years as an Engineer, Manager & Director. He continues to consult with companies on a part time basis.

2. Employment and Training Administration US Department of Labor: "Building Blocks for Competency Models"


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