Based on a National Longitudinal Case Study of Exemplary Pathways That Work

The AMTEC National Center ( is an NSF-funded project that applauds the success of its vision in creating an automotive/community college collaborative (12 states, 34 auto-related plants, and 30 community colleges) that has delivered international core technical curriculum, assessments, and credentialing that are filling the high-priority needs of automotive manufacturers and suppliers. "There are approximately 600,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in the United States simply because employers cannot find people with the skills they need." (Deloitte & Touche and the Manufacturing Institute)

One of the primary goals of the AMTEC Center is to increase secondary-to-postsecondary transitions and support those transitions from postsecondary to employment. In 2009 AMTEC commissioned a literature review to provide a comprehensive review of programs that prepare individuals for careers with a specific focus on automotive and advanced manufacturing. The literature review identified six major characteristics for successful secondary-to-postsecondary pathways. These are

  1. Employer involvement in all phases of the program

  2. Institutional and instructional transformation links to education and career competencies and training

  3. Wrap-around support services

  4. Partnerships

  5. Continuous improvement

  6. Sustainability

Five Case Studies

In 2010, AMTEC identified and engaged five exemplary partnerships (Alamo Community College District, Lansing Community College and Eaton Intermediate School District's Career Preparation Center, Owensboro Community and Technical College's Discover College, Florida Advanced Technical Education Center—FL-ATE, and Ivy Tech Community College-Southwest Campus) between secondary and postsecondary institutions and local industries in which the partners contributed human resources, finances, facilities and equipment, and leadership to help accomplish a set of agreed upon goals and outcomes. The broad aims of the AMTEC longitudinal case study series are:

  1. To increase academic expertise and improve industry practice and knowledge transfer about industry-education advanced manufacturing and automotive career pathways;

  2. To describe a set of circumstances from which lessons can be drawn for other organizations;

  3. To explore the opportunities and challenges of industry and education partnering with one another with the aim of developing future partnerships;

  4. To be stand-alone "learning" case studies that generate new insights and perspectives and inspire innovation and improve the effectiveness of industry-education partnerships;

  5. To present practical examples of the AMTEC partnership model and the application of partnership skills for use in creating p-16+ career pathways;

  6. To develop an awareness of the potential of using industry-education; and

  7. To develop a "national career pathway model" that will provide a pipeline of human resources to fill the current manufacturing shortage and meet the workforce needs of the 21st century.


The alignment of the five case studies with the literature review identified six major characteristics of successful career pathway programs:

  1. Employer involvement in all phases of the program

    For each organization, there was evidence of a "win-win" philosophy embedded in the foundation of their project. Clearly each organization had visionary leaders that set the direction and shared the vision.

  2. Institutional and instructional transformation links education and career competencies and training

    As each program was starting up, industry was involved in development and implementation of performance measures or indicators for tracking the achievement and effectiveness of the program. Industry was also involved in ensuring availability of financial and other resources to support the program. These organizations go to large measures to listen to and learn from their current students and stakeholders.

  3. Wrap-around support services

    All of the colleges reported offering career guidance, academic counseling, mentor financial assistance, internships, tutoring, personal counseling, and academic advising. The programs often provide job search assistance, coping strategies for blending work and education, and skill building in resume writing, interviewing, and social networking.

  4. Partnerships

    The values and goals of higher education are different from those of business. Industries focus on the costs and profit, customer satisfaction, innovation, and productivity while educational institutions focus on intangible outcomes, student development, and improving access and affordability. Each of the case studies had to deal with strategic challenges or pressures that exerted a decisive influence on their likelihood of future success. These challenges frequently were driven by both external and internal challenges among and between partners.

    Another common characteristic of these case studies is the dual or concurrent enrollment programs that allow high school students to take college-level courses either at their high schools or on college campuses.

  5. Continuous improvement

    It was evident that for each of the case studies, within the culture of the educators and industry representatives there was a culture of improvement and innovation. Many individuals in both organizations worked actively in organizational development, quality assessment, and planning and/or institutional improvement.

  6. Sustainability

    The term "sustainability" refers to the organization's ability to address current organizational needs and to have the agility and strategic management to prepare successfully for the future organizational, market, and operating environment.

    The case study organizations focused on sustainability items such as:

    • Funding stability

    • Workforce capability and capacity considerations

    • Resource availability (e.g., faculty availability, enrollment, etc.)

    • Technology updates (frequency)

    • Content updates

    • Changes in core competencies (fundamental)

    • Alignment with schools and college schedules to corporate schedules

    • Facilities

    • Equipment

    • Changes in educational market

    • Changes in student and stakeholder preferences

    • Changes in the operating environment

    • Changes in budgets and finances

    • Changes in the legal and regulatory environment

    • Preparedness for real-time or short-term emergencies

Major Promising Practices Gleaned From These Case Studies

  • Partnerships between secondary schools, community colleges, and businesses have the potential to truly transform instructional practices.

  • Meaningful changes to traditional curriculum and instructional practices were made when solid partnerships were formed.

  • The college must provide academic and career navigation support to the student.

  • There was a focus on the future that included priority on developing a pipeline in high-demand workforce areas; creating opportunities for innovation; and focusing on societal responsibilities and concerns.


  • There is a need for educational institutions and colleges to partner with regional corporations to provide innovative solutions to business problems.

  • More sophisticated research needs to be done to determine whether the "promising" practices are indeed "best" practices.

  • There is a need to use the models and promising practices to develop federal and state policies to ensure funding of, and focus on, these innovative programs.

  • Research must be done to track participant demographics and performance data within the various career pathway models.

  • The mismatch between high school graduate requirements and the college entrance requirements must be addressed.

AMTEC Career Pathway

The resulting AMTEC Career Pathway (shown here) is a series of connected education and training programs and student support services that enable individuals to secure a job or advance in the automotive manufacturing industry sector. Career Pathways focus on easing and facilitating student transition from high school to community college; from pre-college courses to credit postsecondary programs; and from community college to university or employment. The AMTEC partner community colleges are developing a comprehensive program that realigns curriculum and provides alternative delivery methods as well as flexibility for students to gain skills and advance in the labor market more quickly to address employer and student needs.

Stanley S. Chase, Ph.D., is retired Senior Vice President from Lansing Community College, a senior consultant for AMTEC, and founder of S/Y Chase Consulting LLC. He can be contacted at AMTEC inquiries should be directed to

© 2013 CORD. Connections is distributed to members of the National Career Pathways Network (NCPN) as a benefit of membership. To become a member, visit NCPN, an organization of CORD (, assists its members in planning, implementing, evaluating, and improving workforce education programs. Questions? Mark Whitney, 254-741-8315,