DACUM, CETE, and Community Colleges

Every community college administrator wants to make certain the college’s technical education programs are up to date and relevant to the needs of business and industry in the labor market area. To do anything less would be a major disservice to the students and the area employers. To involve business and industry in a significant way in order to develop new program curricula and keep existing curriculum up to date is a constant challenge. CETE has used the DACUM ob/occupational analysis process to address this concern very successfully. CETE has conducted week-long DACUM facilitator training institutes for persons from over 525 colleges and 420 companies in the U.S. since 1982. The trainees, who have come from every state and over 45 countries, receive official certification as OSU/CETE trained DACUM facilitators, which is widely recognized both nationally and internationally. The training has also been offered on site in 27 other countries.

The DACUM process uses local industry experts (top performers) to rigorously identify what should be taught in terms of duties, tasks, and skills (competencies) that workers must perform in a given job or occupational area. A group of 5-10 expert workers who are recruited from local employers work over a 2-day period with a trained facilitator to conduct the analysis. The panel of experts provides the content expertise, while the DACUM facilitator serves as the process expert to guide the panel and obtain consensus on the tasks. In addition to the duties and tasks, information about three enablers is also collected. These include general knowledge and skills, expected worker behaviors, and the tools, equipment, supplies, and materials used by the workers. To take a look at how the occupation may be changing, a list of the future trends and concerns is also captured. The process has been found to work equally well with skilled, technical, supervisory, managerial, and professional occupations. Many colleges have established a policy whereby all technical programs must be reviewed every 3-5 years using the full 2-day DACUM process or a modified 1-day process that starts with an existing chart. Quotations from three such colleges follow in their own words.

Elizabeth Daugherty, the Director of Assessment for Student Learning at Columbus State Community College (CSCC), explains why CSCC makes extensive use of the DACUM process for curriculum alignment with the related industry:

CSCC in Columbus, OH, is a comprehensive community college of more than 30,000 students. The Career and Technical Programs (CTP) division includes 91 degree programs (with majors and tracks). There is a formal 3-year process to systematically validate the student learning outcomes that are being measured in the program (what the student is expected to do and know upon graduation).

Faculty and chairs of these individual programs use the DACUM process as part of the external validation of these outcomes. The Ohio State University’s CETE has completed more than 40 DACUM workshops for Columbus State over the last few years. The DACUM provides an objective view and the expertise of industry partners who will be hiring our students. The DACUM team objectively describes the occupation in the language of the occupation. The detailed report that is provided from the team is a professional and comprehensive profile of the occupation.

I highly recommend DACUM as part of any systematic process to ensure that the curriculum, resources, and student learning align with the related industry.

John Pierce, Program Coordinator at Southeast Community College (SCC) in Nebraska, reports that:

DACUM and SCID are applied to nearly every program of study at SCC every 5 years to ensure that programs are teaching students the most current information and skills that are applicable to their chosen fields. The process SCC applies is as follows:

  1. Conduct a 2-day DACUM workshop. Every other workshop (on a 5-year cycle) is a 1-day modified DACUM in which they use the previous DACUM chart as a guide, modifying that document as needed with the assistance of 6-10 expert workers from the respective industry.
  2. Conduct task verification with 100-150 additional expert workers, ensuring buy-in from the appropriate industry to the newly created or modified DACUM chart.
  3. Conduct task selection. Each program’s chairpersons and instructors select tasks for further scrutiny.
  4. Conduct task analysis. The selected tasks from the previous step are broken down into steps and the other eight components that the SCID process recommends. Programs perform this process in 1 day with multiple panels consisting of 2-3 expert workers and 1 SCC-trained facilitator.
  5. Conduct curriculum content review. SCC program faculty assign proficiency levels to each objective and/or competency that has been identified in the previous step by expert workers.
  6. Conduct curriculum refinement. In this final step, SCC program staff compare the content of all syllabi in their program with the results of the curriculum content review. In this step, they ensure that every competency identified by expert workers is being taught somewhere in our program’s curriculum. They also perform a “look-back” into each course syllabus where they locate content currently existing in a syllabus that is no longer needed by the respective industry. This final step reduces the “what” errors in both directions.

According to Gina R. Benesh, Manager, CTE Compliance and Marketing at St. Louis Community College (STLCC), in St. Louis, MO:
The DACUM process is key in developing curriculum for new Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at STLCC. The following steps identify where the DACUM process is embedded in this process:

  • Needs assessment. This is a preliminary assessment that includes data on the workforce needs within the St. Louis area.
  • Tech scan. The tech scan is a focus group discussion with business and industry partners that verifies the viability of a program. This is a group of area CEOs that can forecast the need for training within the next-year, 5-year, or 10-year period.
  • Occupational analysis. St. Louis Community College uses the DACUM process to determine the occupational competencies, key skills, and attitudes required of entry-level workers and to build the new curriculum around the duties and tasks identified for that occupation.

Also, STLCC is in the process of implementing a new program evaluation model. Very similar to the process for developing new curriculum, the model includes continuous program improvement to address the currency of curriculum and the relevance to program workforce demands (DACUM) and an annual review of program data. By the end of the academic year, we will have six certified DACUM facilitators to assist with the new CTE curriculum and continuous program improvement processes.

Contributor: Robert E. Norton, Ph.D.