NIMS has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to develop a competency-based apprenticeship system for the metalworking industry. The purpose is to integrate NIMS national metalworking standards and credentialing assessments into a system that combines the on-the-job learning of apprenticeship and the use of NIMS assessments as performance measures.
NIMS envisions flexibility for trainees and employers. The system will reward trainees by enabling them to advance at their own pace and by opening career options throughout the industry. By integrating the NIMS credentials as performance measures, the hope is that trainees may have multiple entry points and may enter training with advanced standing based on earned credentials. The use of NIMS credentials may also enable trainees to move from one apprenticeable occupation to another within metalworking.
The project builds on the 24 sets of NIMS standards and credentials, and it will enable employers to apply credentials as milestones within apprenticeship training. Employers will be able to customize training yet maintain the national integrity of apprenticeships. They will be able to monitor and measure progress and to reward initiative. The project envisions the use of attained credentials in lieu of a rigid set of hours, as entry requirements or even as advanced standing. Another goal is to develop articulation agreements with institutions of higher education. NIMS intends that all apprentices will be granted college credit for earned credentials. The project is structured in five phases.
- An expert panel will examine apprenticeable occupations, define a competency lattice that will include the required competencies and then match those against the NIMS standards and credentials. The panel will describe career ladders for a 21st century metalworking apprenticeship system. The panel will be comprised of at least eight firms drawn broadly from the industry.
- Based on the work of the panel, a curriculum committee will devise curriculum guides for training. The committee will be drawn from industry and will include at least eight firms and two training institutions.
- The system will be piloted in selected firms. The intention is to conduct a minimum of six pilots and to ensure representation from each major metalworking industry sector.
- An implementation guide will be developed based on the work of the expert panel and the committee as well as a review of best practices within metalworking and other occupations.
- Training to implement the system will be conducted for the staff of the Department of Labor and the metalworking associations.
NIMS officials stress that NIMS credentials, which measure competency, are not a substitute for apprenticeship training. NIMS sees apprenticeship as critical on-the-job learning that enables trainees to become proficient in applying those competencies.
NIMS stakeholders— the Association For Manufacturing Technology, The American Machine Tool Distributors Association, the National Tooling and Machining Association, The Precision Machined Products Association, the Precision Manufacturing Association, the Society of the Plastics Industry, the Society of Plastics Engineers and the Tooling and Manufacturing Association—have invested $7.5 million in developing NIMS standards and assessments. The Department of Labor has committed $1.9 million to the NIMS apprenticeship project.
The project has a scheduled completion date of June 30, 2005, but NIMS wants pilot firms up and running in early 2004. Firms interested in being involved can call me at (703) 352-4971.