Competency-based dual education: An alliance between industry, education and public sectors to fulfill industry demand and needs of youth in the US – A project success story[1]

SECOND EDITION                                                          

Dr. Thomas Baumanna, Sarah Harfstb, Amy Cellc, John Dunnd

aGeneral Manager, Orbitak International LLC, Troy, Michigan, USA

bConsultant, Orbitak International LLC, Troy, Michigan, USA
cSenior Vice President, Talent Enhancement, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Lansing, Michigan, USA
dPresident, Brose North America, Inc., Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA


The future of industry, and its ability to globally compete, is contingent on the competencies and motivation of its employees. Therefore, competence-based education and youth development are needed to maintain a talent pipeline of employees who have the skills and competencies necessary for industry to succeed in the global market. Such an undertaking requires a professional combination of political vision, academic abilities and acumen, and strong industry involvement, as well as a unified mindset of social responsibility.

Over the last two decades, there has been an increasing skill gap between industry demand and the qualified existing workforce. In Michigan, the state government, industry and educators initiated and implemented- within 12 months- a statewide competency-based dual education system in order to create a competent, readily employable workforce. Using industry defined competencies, nationally recognized academic credentials, and a unique combination of theory, practical instruction and work assignment, Michigan Advanced Technician Training [MAT2] allows companies to “grow their own” employees, offers graduates viable career options, and ensures the recognition of Michigan as an education innovator and global competitor.

Strong program management with a clearly defined structure [organization, scope, timing, risks, costs…] was crucial in order to ensure the critical balance of different stakeholder interests, the creation of industry-approved competence-based learning content, and the successful completion of program targets. This article will explain the program management approach, complex structure, and ambitious goals of MAT2, as well as identify the key success [program management] features which will allow it to grow.

Keywords: program management, stakeholder management, PM in education, partnership, 

  1. Introduction 

Michigan’s 2013 Economic Summit focused on the growing skills gap, and the current disconnect between industry demand and the state’s ability to meet both current and future talent needs. Governor Rick Snyder addressed the scope and impact of Michigan’s current skill gap, acknowledging that “it’s a national issue… not a just a Michigan issue” and there is “no good system to aggregate that demand” [Gallagher, J., 2013].   Skills gap studies across the country indicate that 67% of manufacturers are currently experiencing “a moderate to severe shortage of available, qualified workers” [Manufacturing Institute Report, 2012], and recognizing the aging generation of their current workforce, expect a severe labor crisis when they retire [Streb, Voelpel, and Leibold, 2009]. The manufacturing industry is unable to fill vacant technician positions, due to a labor shortage of skilled workers [those falling between unskilled labor and engineer], and are sometimes forced to place engineers in technician roles- resulting higher labor, recruitment, and turnover costs [Roesset and Yao, 2000].

Although the talent pipeline has several points of disconnect, one that industry leaders have increasingly identified targets the US education system. Citing this disconnect, automotive manufacturer Volkswagen recently stated that they “can only maintain their global standard by utilizing their own training and education measures,” and have created their own internal training programs for employees using approaches similar to the German Dual Education System [VW 2013].  Because the future of industry, and its ability to globally compete, is contingent on the competence and skill of its workforce, educators play a pivotal role in their success and/or failure. Companies rely on educators to supply a higher level of entry-level skill so that they can minimize their training costs. If educators are unable to meet industry’s talent demands, as currently indicated by the national skill gaps, manufacturers like Volkswagen will continue to increase their investment in employee training and view colleges as increasingly irrelevant. This solution, however, fails to address the bulk of the manufacturing industry.

Although larger companies have the knowledge and resources to implement internal training programs, both the federal and Michigan state government have recognized the need for education reform amongst community colleges, so as to meet the talent needs of suppliers and other [smaller] manufacturing sectors. In doing so, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation [MEDC], directed by Governor Snyder, brought together a group of government, industry, and education leaders in June 2012 to discuss the comprehensive education reform needed to address the current skills gap in Michigan. The product of this meeting, what is now called the Michigan Advanced Technician Training [MAT2] Mechatronics Program, is the pilot implementation of a dual education system and is driven by three primary stakeholder groups:


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Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. This paper was originally presented at the 27th IPMA World Congress in Dubrovnik, Croatia and included in the Congress Proceedings, October 2013. It is republished here with permission or the authors and congress organizers.

About the Authors 

flag-usapmwj18-jan2014-baumann-PHOTO1 BAUMANNThomas Baumann 

Orbitak International LLC

Troy, Michigan, USA

Thomas Baumann, born in 1960 studied physics. After some years in the power plant industry he got in contact with the matter of project management and joined a management consultancy. Using his experiences in the power plant and offshore industry he implemented project management in international and global acting companies.  Later he joined the large German Automaker Volkswagen AG as principal of the Volkswagen consulting and was responsible for the strategic development of the component plants esp. in Germany. Because of his strong ties to project management field he was asked to establish and manage the center of competence of PM of VW in Wolfsburg, Germany. Later he became the leader of Business Processes and IT-Strategy at Volkswagen of America in Detroit, USA.

Today Th0mas is Director of the Orbitak Consultancy company and CEO of the Orbitak International LLC in Detroit USA. Since more than 20 years he is working/leading consulting projects & programs mainly in global acting enterprises in the automotive & supplier, public, education and banking industry. Mr. Baumann is specialized in the fields of strategic consulting, business processes and project management- especially PM-maturities and new trends in project management. During the last years he was focused on the transfer of results from fields like expertise research, neurobiology and complexity management into practical hints for the field of (project) management about which he published several papers. He also is specialized in setting up and managing complex projects within the educational sector where politics, industry and academic providers have to partner.

Thomas Baumann won with his colleagues Manfred Saynisch and Dr. Louis Klein the 2010 International ICCPM research prize.  Thomas can be contacted at [email protected].

flag-usapmwj18-jan2014-baumann-PHOTO2 HARFSTSarah Harfst

Orbitak International LLC

Troy, Michigan, USA

Sarah Harfst is a consultant for Orbitak International LLC, the US subsidiary of a German-based management consulting company. She graduated from Michigan State University having focused on research and evaluation, and has worked on state-wide systems change initiatives like the National Youth Leadership Initiative. Currently, Sarah consults in the development and project management of the Michigan Advanced Technician Training Program (MAT2) Mechatronics Program and the Multi-State Advanced Manufacturing Consortium Grant.

flag-usapmwj18-jan2014-baumann-PHOTO3 CELLAmy Cell

Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Lansing, Michigan, USA

Amy Cell is Senior Vice President of Talent Enhancement for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.  Her primary focus is to direct programs to attract, retain and develop talent for the state of Michigan. Prior to joining the MEDC in 2011, Amy was VP, Talent Enhancement & Entrepreneurial Education at Ann Arbor SPARK, where she assisted organizations with their talent needs, provided oversight for a variety of entrepreneurial education programs and managed the SPARK East incubator.  In addition to working as a CPA for Plante & Moran, and launching an Office of Student Life for the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, she has spent 10 years in a variety of human resources roles at Ford Motor Company, the Stanford Research Institute, Applied Biosystems and co-founded the consulting partnership, HR Drivers.

Current and past board memberships include the Center for Entrepreneurship at the U-M College of Engineering, Women’s Council for Washtenaw Community College, Huron Musical Association, Women’s Exchange of Washtenaw, Ross School of Business SE Michigan Alumni Club, Kingcare, King PTO and the Junior League of Ann Arbor.  Amy received her BBA and MBA from the University of Michigan.

flag-usapmwj18-jan2014-baumann-PHOTO4 DUNNJohn Dunn

President, Brose North America

John Dunn has been responsible for Brose activities in North America since August 1, 2012.    John Dunn graduated with degrees in engineering from Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin.  After joining Brose North America as Director for General Motors Door System business in 1998, he was appointed General Manager of the Chicago plant in 2002.  From 2007, John was Chief Operating Officer in charge of production sites in the North American region.  For two years during that period, he also held the position of Vice President responsible for global door system sales to General Motors.

[1] Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 27th IPMA World Congress in Dubrovnik, Croatia.  It is republished here with permission of the author and congress organizers.