Mechatronics Combines “Cupcakes & Competencies” at Employer Demo Event
Cupcakes, coffee, and important conversation filled the room at the Clover Park Technical College Mechatronics Program’s “Cupcakes & Competencies” event Friday, as the program unveiled a new “Smart Matching System” to local employers and other guests.
The system is an online environment, hosted by the college, which allows students and employers to connect with each other based on competencies defined by Mechatronics instructors. Employers log in to the system through their PC or smart phone to review competencies, each of which is tied to Mechatronics course objectives. Using a swipe gesture, employers can rate the importance of each competency to their firm—and even re-sort the list of competencies based on the requirements of a different position within their firm. Employers can also comment on the competencies, and they can propose new skills and knowledge they believe CPTC students should acquire during their time in the program.
Building the Smart Matching System was one of the primary objectives of the $2.5-million “Connecting Competencies to Employers (C2E)” grant the college was awarded in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Labor. The system is powered by JobWorthy, a technology platform that uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to bridge the gap between colleges and the labor market.
“The system we’re rolling out uses some pretty advanced technology to calibrate instruction in the college to the needs of the local workforce, in real time,” C2E Instructional Design Specialist Richard Hines said. “But it’s important to our project team that we ‘hide’ the complexity under a simple user interface that is appealing and engaging for employers, instructors, and students. A major purpose of the ‘Cupcakes & Competencies’ event was to do a live demo of the system for employers, and get validation that this is something that is easy to use and helpful from a hiring and staffing standpoint. The answer was a resounding, ‘Yes!’”
During the demonstration, the chief executive of a local manufacturing firm, who serves on the C2E grant project advisory board, took the system for a “test drive” to show how it works from the employer’s perspective. He rearranged 15 competencies in the system based on their order of importance to a position that he is currently recruiting for, “x-ing out” (i.e. removing) a couple of skills on the list that are not relevant to the job he’s trying to fill.
Immediately after, one of the Mechatronics instructors, Tom Chesnes, logged in to the system through his account to review the employer’s feedback and discuss why it’s useful from an instructional standpoint.
“It’s up to the instructors to review what comes back from employers and determine whether changes seem warranted and, if so, how to make those adaptations to the curriculum,” said Danny Copeland, C2E Project Manager. “Instructors stay in control—this just gives them more live data on what’s valued in the job market, and where the trends are heading.”
Throughout the event, attendees enjoyed cupcakes and cold-brew coffee courtesy of CPTC’s Pastry Arts program. Pastry Arts students decorated the cupcakes with the names of different competencies that our Mechatronics students graduate with—from technical skills like “Automation” and “Robotics” to life skills like “Reliability” and “Communication.” Guests also enjoyed a tour of the Mechatronics lab. About 20 people attended, including several local employers who hire Mechatronics graduates.