This paper will provide an overview on the evolution of the Electronics Technician Program: Common Core as a
international program transfer standard for electronics education at the technician level. The paper will start by examining the impetus which lead to the development of the Electronics Technician Program: Common Core as an international electronics technician education transfer standard and its future development.
Development of an Electronics Technician Standard
Before we can talk about the development of the Electronics Technician Program: Common Core as an international standard for transferability, it is necessary to look its evolution. In the early 1980s, the electronics technician programs in British Columbia were fractured. Each post-secondary institution that offered an electronics program taught its electronics program using its own material in its own way. The electronic technician programs were specialized into specific areas, such as automation and robotics, computer, consumer or telecommunications.
There was little if any recognition for the training and education that was offered at other institutions. Each institution
teaching electronics had to fully equip a lab with both basic electronics equipment and with the more expensive electronics equipment particular to a specialized electronics field. With the funding constraints that were introduced in the early to mid-1980s, the cost of teaching both basic electronics and an electronics specialty became too costly for some institutions. As a result, several programs were shut down and the remaining electronics technician programs were forced to re-assess how they delivered electronics training and education.
What emerged from this restructuring was a move toward standardization in training at the basic level of electronics
technician training. The leadership to make these changes was provided and spearheaded by the British Columbia Electronics Technician Articulation Committee. This group was composed of faculty members from each institution that offered electronics training at the technician level. Through the articulation process it became clear that regardless of the type of electronics program being offered, whether it automation and robotics, computer, consumer or telecommunications, there was a common or basic element that was taught in all the various types of electronics technician programs. This common element eventually became the Electronics Technician Program: Common Core.
The model that emerged due financial constraints provided a more rationale method of offering electronics education and training was to divide the training into a basic component and a specialized component. This structure became known as the Core-Specialty model. The model allowed smaller institutions to continue to offer basic electronics technician training because delivery and equipment maintenance costs were not as great as those associated with maintaining a specialized program. Because of economy of scale factors, the larger institutions would offer both the basic level of electronics training -- the Core -- and an advanced level of electronics training -- a Specialty. In order to make the model work, an informal arrangement developed between instructors at the different institutions that allowed students finishing the Core program at one of the smaller institutions to transfer into a Specialty option at one of the bigger institutions with no roadblocks.
Development of the Electronics Technician Program: Common Core
In April of 1989, the British Columbia Electronics Technician Articulation Committee in conjunction with the British
Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education and Job Training, produced a document listing the skill competencies for basic electronics training at the certificate level. This document was called the Electronics Technician Program: Common Core, more commonly referred to as the "Electronics Core", and began a process in British Columbia toward recognizing the informal process that had been developed over the previous years.
The objective of the Electronics Core document was to provide the first step toward a single source that would be used as a province-wide standard for basic electronics training. The blueprint document provided instructors with a set of
competencies that their students were to have mastered upon successful completion of the program. The document provided instructors with a means of comparing the skills that the student should have acquired, either at their own institution or at any other institution. Since the instructors were teaching to a common set of competencies, students from their own or any other institution that used the document, would have roughly similar skills and knowledge of electronics theory and practice when they completed the basic program. The Electronics Core program did not - and does not -- specify a curriculum, a set of books or a delivery methodology, but a set of competencies that the learner must have mastered on completion. These competencies were developed through a DACUM process.
It must be pointed out that the Electronics Technician Program: Common Core is a voluntary standard for electronics training. It was not a mandatory standard imposed by the British Columbia government but was a collaborative venture between educational institutions aimed at providing additional opportunities for learners. As such, the on-going participation of the various representatives from these institutions was critical to the success of the Core Electronics program. This represents the strength of the program because it is a creation of the system and control over it remains with the member institutions and their faculty.
The Electronics Technician Program: Common Core as a Provincial Standard
The development and adoption of the Core Electronics Blueprint document was an improvement over the patchwork that had existed in British Columbia prior to this time but it was seen as being incomplete. In May of 1992, the Electronics Technician Articulation Committee revised and updated the competencies of the Electronics Technician Program: Common Core Blueprint document. In addition, the Committee believed that it was necessary to formalize the existing informal transfer arrangements between the member institutions specifically the faculty members. In order to achieve a formal transfer agreement it was necessary to ensure that all institutions would have to recognize the transferability of the Core program into the Specialties.
A Memorandum of Understanding on Transferability was developed and signed by the Presidents of the institutions who offered electronics at the technician level. This was done after extensive consultation with the faculty , the department heads and deans of each institution. The seven original signatories to the transfer agreement were:
British Columbia Institute of Technology
The University College of the Cariboo
Kwantlen College (now Kwantlen University College)
Malaspina University College
North Island College
Open Learning Agency
Vancouver Community College
The Memorandum of Understanding on Transferability formalized the existing informal agreement and turned the Core
Electronics program in to the recognized British Columbia provincial transfer standard. The creation and signing of the MOU automatically provided students with greater flexibility in making educational choices and in mobility in transferring their existing education elsewhere within British Columbia.
The Electronics Technician Program: Common Core as an Inter-Provincial Standard
In May of 1992, the competencies for the Electronics Technician Program: Common Core were revised by the Electronics Technician Articulation Committee. In attendance at this meeting and subsequent articulation meetings were representatives from a variety of institutions across Canada who were interested in developing a National Standard for Electronics Technician Programs. The institutions / organizations that attended these articulation meetings were:
British Columbia Telephone Company (B.C. Tel)
British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority (B.C. Hydro)
Edmonton Telephone Company (Ed Tel)
Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
Lethbridge Community College
Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (both the Wascana and Kelsey campuses)
George Brown College
Red River Community College
the (Canadian) Navy
the (Canadian) Air Force
The objectives of the Articulation Committee meetings was to review the transfer mechanism. In addition there was
substantial discussion on the feasibility of developing an inter-provincial transfer agreement. All participants agreed that the Core Electronics program provided a solid basis from which any inter-provincial agreements should be developed and from which a national transfer standard could be developed. The participants also agreed that this standard would be voluntary and aimed at providing students with greater educational opportunities and choice during their education. It would also allow those students who had completed a "standardised" basic electronics technician program to have greater mobility in pursuing a career in the electronics field in other provinces and to seek additional training at an advanced or specialized level seamlessly.
The Electronics Technician Program: Common Core as a (Canadian) National Transfer Standard
At the May, 1993, meeting of the Electronics Technician Articulation Committee, the British Columbia Electronics
Technician Program: Common Core Memorandum of Understanding on Transferability was formally presented and
discussed. At this meeting there were institutional representatives in attendance from many colleges across Canada. These institutional representatives expressed an interest in having their institutions become signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding. Over the next couple of months negotiations were initiated with institutions in other Provinces. In November, 1993, five new institutions in four other Provinces were admitted into the Memorandum of Understanding along with a sixth institution from British Columbia that was admitted as an associate member. These institutions were:
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton, Alberta
Lethbridge Community College in Lethbridge, Alberta
Red River Community College in Winnipeg, Manitoba
George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario
Holland College in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Selkirk College in Castlegar, British Columbia (as an associate member)
These six institutions, along with institutions in British Columbia, created an
inter-provincial transfer agreement that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Since
November 1993, the number of signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding on
Transferability has been expanding each year to include new institutions.
In May, 1994, three more institutions were admitted into the agreement. These institutions were:
Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba
Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario
The Kelsey Institute of the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
In May, 1995, another three institutions were admitted into the agreement. These institutions were:
Camosun College in Victoria, British Columbia
St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario
The Wascana Institute of the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
In May, 1996, another five institutions were admitted into the Memorandum of Understanding on Transferability. Three of these institutions were from Canada but two were from the United States. The addition of these institutions made the
Memorandum of Understanding on Transferability into an international transfer agreement, albeit one specific to North
America. The institutions that were admitted were:
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary, Alberta (as an associate member)
Woodland Institute of the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
Keewatin Community College in The Pas, Manitoba
Southwestern Community College in Chula Vista, California
Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada
In May, 1997, an additional six institutions were admitted into the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Transferability;
five as full members and one as an associate member. The six institutions were:
Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Washington
College of the North Atlantic (formerly known as Cabot College) in Newfoundland,
Regency Institute in Adelaide, Australia
University College of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, British Columbia
San Joaquin Delta College in San Joaquin, California, and
College of New Caledonia in British Columbia in Prince George, British Columbia (as an associate member)
Two associate members, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Alberta and Selkirk College in British
Columbia, changed status from associate member to full member.
The addition of these institutions along with the 23 existing signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding, meant that theCore Electronics program was the defacto Canadian transfer standard for basic electronics training and education at thetechnician level. With the admittance of one Australian college and two more American colleges -- and interest from many other American Colleges -- the Core Electronics program has the potentiality to become more than just a North American transfer standard.
Development of Competency-Based Modularized Curriculum Materials
Based on the strong interest from colleges all across Canada in the Electronics Technician Program: Common Core, the British Columbia Government decided to sponsor a project to develop self-contained modularized competency-based materials that would be linked to the Core Electronics Blueprint document. Institutions from across Canada were contacted to see if they would be interested in participating in a National Curriculum Project. Many of the institutions that are signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding on Transferability agreed to participate in the development of the curriculum materials. In addition, there were several colleges who were not signatories to the transfer agreement who also participated along with other companies such as the British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority (B.C. Hydro).
Participation in the National Curriculum Project was voluntary and not linked to membership in the transfer agreement. This project was the first of its type and was spearheaded by the Centre for Curriculum and Professional Development in Victoria, British Columbia. The curriculum materials were developed, piloted, revised and completed in the Spring of 1997 and distributed to partner organisations. These materials are also available to others.
The Electronics Technician Program: Common Core and Accreditation
So far this paper has been about how the Electronics Technician Program: Common Core represents a transfer standard for basic electronics education at the technician level. It was not designed to be an accreditation standard because it is not designed to produce an entry level electronics technician. This point is important because the point of entry into the workforce provides the basis for creation of a national reference standard that can be used for accreditation of programs. The Core Electronics program covers off on the fundamentals of electronics education and training and is the basis for entry into any specialized electronics area. It does not provide students with the specialized skills needed to enter into the workforce directly. Those skills needed to become an entry level electronics technician are acquired in the Specialty Electronics programs. As such, it would not qualify as an accreditation standard because it is not aimed for point of entry into the work-force.
The development of National Reference Standards which can be used for accreditation was completed by the Committee on National Standards for Applied Science and Engineering Technicians in the Spring of 1996. The Committee on National Standards for Applied Science and Engineering Technicians spent 18 months developing and validating the standards based on input from industry, education, professional associations and Government. The new Canadian Technician National Reference Standards are competency based and list the skills that are needed by a technician in the applied science and engineering technical occupational fields for point of entry into the workforce. The Canadian Technician National Reference Standards wee designed to be used by:
Industry in providing a standard against which to develop define and upgrade technical occupations and classifications , Education in training students to meet that technical occupational area, Professional associations in setting license to practice; and Government in providing a rational means for allowing these professions to self-regulate.
The completed standards were turned over to the Canadian Technology Human Resources Board who was assigned
responsibility for maintaining, disseminating and distributing the new Canadian Technician National Reference Standards, along with the older Canadian Technology Standards (which are in the process of being updated to be in format similar to that of the technician standards).
Although the Electronics Technician Program: Common Core and the Canadian Technician National Reference Standards are designed to serve different purposes, there is a natural link between the two. The Electronics Technician Program: Common Core serves as a training standard for basic electronics with transferability into specialized areas of electronics. The Canadian Technician National Reference Standards were designed to serve as the standard for determining all the skills need for point of entry into the workforce. The National Reference Standards have been divided into three broad categories:
Generic competencies - which list the competencies common to all areas; Common Core competencies - which list the skills common to an occupational cluster (i.e. Electrical / Electronics /Instrumentation); and Specialty competencies - which list the skills common to a specific occupational area.
The competencies within the generic and common core areas of the Canadian Technician National Reference Standards are very similar to the competencies listed in the Electronics Technician Program: Common Core Blueprint document.
Recognition of the Core Electronics program as a subset of the National Reference Standard in the Electrical / Electronics /Instrumentation cluster would provide an immediate means of operationalizing the National Standards. It would mean that those institutions that only offer basic electronics programs and are not designed to produce an entry level technician -- and are therefore ineligible for program accreditation -- would have an avenue now for program recognition. It would allow those institutions that offer both a Core and a Specialty to maintain their transfer agreements with institutions only offering the Core Electronics program because the receiving institutions would not have to worry about losing accreditation due to the transfer agreement. In addition, it would provide industry with input into both the training and the training standard. The net affect would be to raise public awareness of the electronics field, to raise the overall level of training within educational institutions and to provide learners with greater portability of the education and training across many jurisdictions.
Where Do We Go From Here?
One of the major hurdles that signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding on Transferability will have to overcome is that of maintaining the integrity of the transfer agreement. As was indicated earlier, the International Electronics Technician Articulation Committee has responsibility for maintaining the transfer agreement. This group is a voluntary organization that does not have a budget. It relies on the honesty of new applicants in reporting information about their programs. Since the group does not have a budget, there are no site visits or surprise checks to validate what has been communicated.
What was discussed in the previous section regarding accreditation may provide a means of overcoming the challenge of reliability and validity of learning outcomes among the member institutions. However, given the international dimension of the membership within the Transfer Agreement, the issue that is raised is whose "standards". The Core Electronics document provides the basis for transfer through the MOU agreement -- and is a first in that it is a multi-institutional initiative among faculty aimed at enhancing student's opportunities on graduation. The answer to this dilemma may be in uniting the separate threads that exist for accreditation, transfer and credentialling.
© Lane Trotter