Clover Park Technical College launches its first bachelor’s degree program

The “Silver Tsunami” is on the horizon, and Clover Park Technical College is preparing for the worst.

The term refers to the more than 40,000 manufacturing workers set to retire over the next 10 years in the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area, said Steve Addison, director of bachelor degrees and new program development at the college.

“As they slowly lose the older staff, they will need to bring the younger staff in their place,” Addison said.

Starting this fall, the Lakewood college will offer a Bachelor of Applied Science in Manufacturing Operations degree to train the next generation of manufacturing supervisors.

It will be the first bachelor’s program in the college’s history.

While the state’s community and technical colleges usually focus on two-year programs, the Legislature in 2005 approved a law authorizing a limited number of them to offer bachelor’s programs on a trial basis. In 2010, lawmakers made the program permanent and expanded it to all two-year colleges, as long as they receive approval from the State Board of Community & Technical Colleges.

The manufacturing operations degree at Clover Park will allow students with an associate degree to enter into a bachelor’s program at a junior level. The degree will require 90 credits and is expected to take six to eight quarters.

The program is designed for working professionals in the industry who would like to transfer into a management role, Addison said.

“It’s a pay raise and a stable job for the future,” he said. “You can do the degree while you’re working.”

Joyce Loveday, vice president for instruction, said the program is structured to accommodate busy work schedules. She said students can get instruction both in the classroom and on the Web, and have class resources online.

The degree will focus on business skills that many students may not have received while getting their associate degree, including project management, communication skills and business ethics.

The college consulted with the business community and designed the curriculum to fit industry needs, said Tom McLaughlin, executive director of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Puget Sound.

The college aims to have 25 students start in the fall, with the capacity for twice that many later, Addison said.

The State Board of Community & Technical Colleges and a regional accreditation agency approved the degree earlier this year.

Even though this is the first bachelor’s degree program, Addison said the college is looking into offering applied degrees in other departments at Clover Park.

Because this is the first bachelor program at the school, he said, the program will be subject to a continual review process by the college and monitoring by the regional accreditation agency.