Sep 24 Great Content Matters

Letters from the field. Volume 1, Number 1

Joe Kitterman – CEO 180 Skills

One year ago I attended an education technology – workforce conference called CloseIT. This is one of the premier gatherings of movers and shakers in the edtech and workforce industry. Attendees included prominent workforce professionals, the blue chip foundations, venture capital companies, publishers, and providers of education technology. The conference also presents an opportunity for education technology companies to showcase their latest offerings.

At last year’s event it seemed that the edtech “flavor of the day” was data. Every vendor was presenting products that helped to gather data about students. Learning Management System providers, gaming providers, content providers and others were all promoting their unique ability to track, monitor, evaluate and analyze student behavior and student outcomes.

As I wandered about the exhibit space and listened to the keynote speakers I wondered – what value is education data if the origin of the data, which is the online course, is garbage? How can valid data be collected if the starting point is an online course that consist of a professors notes, some bad bitmap images and a never-ending scroll bar.

My 25 year old daughter is a 4.0 graduate of prestigious private, non-profit college in Indianapolis, Indiana. During her time in there she was required to take several online courses. As a result of this, she now has PTSD when it comes to online learning. Every course she took was nothing more than what I described above. The never-ending scroll bar, endless reading and no simulations or interactivities to keep her engaged. She’s told me several times she will never enroll in an online course again……

So let’s start there in terms of data analysis.

This week I was reading one of my favorite blogs from Ryan Craig at University Ventures. Ryan’s blogs are always spot on and brutally “to the point”. The title of his blog is Sim City and in it he talks about how in the beginning days of online learning there were companies who worked hard to product quality online content that included simulations to engage the student and to ensure completers achieved the required levels of company. Few of these companies survived as the market showed a willingness to pay for anything that was called an online course and the quality of the content seemed of no significance in the marketplace.

So, all of the high-powered, data analytics that are now in the marketplace are grounded on an input that loses most learners by the fourth scroll down the never-ending page.

Great content matters part 2

As most of you know, 180 Skills serves a unique market in the digital learning universe – manufacturing. Trust me when I say we are completely alone in our “edtech” mission to make sure this country maintains its ability to produce complex products.

In the online learning industry we are stepchildren. Other edtech providers look at what we do and slowly and carefully back away as if we are infected with some rare disease. There aren’t many people who fell out of a manufacturing plant and decided to create online education for the most complex of industries.

While the rest of the industry chases finance, coding and soft skills, finishing school education (we call it the easy stuff) we have remained steadfast in our mission to move potentially low-skilled, big-hearted, hard-working people into careers with amazing companies that make amazing products we all depend upon.

This is really hard to do

Now teaching the low-skilled, big-hearted, hard-working student technologies and tasks that eclipse many postsecondary topics is hard – really hard. It requires acute attention to how the information is organized and presented to the learner. More importantly it has to engage the learner or they simply won’t finish. Our learners are a tough crowd and far less patient than the typical college student who is willing to endure the endless scrollbar. If they are digging the content they will shut it down and go do something else.

We were very fortunate to have Harley-Davidson Motor Company as one of our early adopter clients. Their motorcycle riding workforce taught us quickly what they did and did not like. With their help we figured out how to reach a tough crowd and make it out of the bar alive so to speak.

Since then we have continued to improve of our learning model placing more and more emphasis on the graphics, the interactivities and the simulations and assessments that ensure 100% entertainment of mastery.

Great content is competency-basd

We also believe that great content is competency-based. Give the student exactly what they need to get the job. Nothing more, nothing less. Don’t keep them away from a living wage one second longer and don’t charge them for education they don’t need. Its that simple.

Today our students include homeless folks, disadvantaged high school students, adult learners trying to turn their lives around and attain a high school diploma, high school kids who can’t or won’t go to college, students who went to college and didn’t make it, and plain old adults who need a new opportunity.

We teach these students how to:

  • Build aircraft for The Boeing Company, Honda Aircraft, Spirit Aerosystems and other OEM aircraft manufactures.
  • Program robots and automated systems for automotive Tier Ones and OEM’s.
  • Operate and program multi-axis CNC machines that produce products for every industry imaginable.
  • Make aircraft and commercial products our of advanced composites materials.
  • Inspect metallic parts in bridges, nuclear reactors, buildings and aircraft for defects.

And I’m proud to say we have maintained a 90% completion rate for the past eight years. Let’s see someone do that with bitmap images and scroll bars.

So, until there is a cure for this disease we have contracted that makes us want to create really complicated courseware for a really tough to serve audience, we will continue to evangelize that Great Content Matters, and we will continue to create great education that gives the big-hearted, hard-working person (or anyone else) a chance at a great career with great companies who make great things.

I would love to continue but I have to go to prepare a proposal for online learning that will teach students in twelve countries how to operate a steel producing plant and not blow themselves or the local village up……

Like I said – this is really hard but great content matters.

To learn more about great content please visit our Great Content page:

Aug 15 Advanced manufacturing program launched at Newark public high school

180 Skills and Schools That Can have partnered with Newark Public Schools West Side High School to launch a career and technical education (CTE) advanced manufacturing program that teaches skills aligned with 9,000 open jobs in the five-county region.

West Side is a four-year, public, urban high school that is dedicated to preparing students for college and career options. West Side has approximately 600 students in grades nine through twelve.

Schools That Can is a New Youk City based non-profit that is dedicated to creating a safe space where teachers and school leaders from urban schools, education innovators, and industry leaders can work together to advance school improvement, breaking down silos to ensure all students are equipped with the skills to succeed in college, career, and life.

“I thought manufacturing was just a guy doing something. After taking 180 Skills courses, I actually got to be involved in making something”, said rising junior Jaevon. He isn’t the only student excited about the new advanced manufacturing program.
Launched in the fall of 2016, 28 students were enrolled in the program. West Side Vice Principal Troy Long said, “After just one year, the advanced manufacturing program will be oversubscribed.”

In the first part of the advanced manufacturing program, Manufacturing Discovery, students learn about manufacturing as a career and basic information about the manufacturing industry. They also apply their knowledge through STEM-based classroom projects.

In the second part of the advanced manufacturing program students will have the opportunity to enroll in 180 Skills Career Programs. Career programs teach entry-level, employer-defined, advanced manufacturing skills and soft skills like team building, communications and career readiness.

Jaevon explained how the soft skills courses have helped him understand the importance of eye contact, “Before I took the course, I didn’t understand why eye contact was important. Now, I always keep eye contact in conversation, and I think that will help me get a job in my future.”

advanced manufacturing program - 180 Skills CEO Joe Kitterman and Westside Student Javan

West Side High School

Students will also engage in real world learning through hands-on projects, field trips to career sites, and visits from guest speakers and mentors.

Before they graduate, Javeon and his classmates could complete two to three Career Programs. Each Career Program is the equivalent of 20 to 25 college credit hours.

Students in grade nine have the opportunity to learn more about manufacturing through an Exploration Day run in partnership with Dream It. Do It. New Jersey.

Vice Principal Long is very pleased with the advanced manufacturing program and states, “Students love it.” The program enrollment is expected to increase each year, providing an even greater opportunity to change students’ lives and successfully launch them into new careers.

Jun 16 180 Skills and Alternative Pathways Programs

Alternative Pathways Programs – 180 Skills highlighted by Tyton Patners and the James Irvine Foundation
A two-part publication highlighting how alternative pathways programs can accelerate employment prospects for low-income adults

In the latter half of 2016, Tyton Partners conducted national research on behalf of The James Irvine Foundation regarding innovative education-to-employment opportunities for low-income adults. The goal of this initiative was to better understand the emerging ecosystem of Alternative Pathways Programs, which are generally non-accredited, employment-oriented education and training initiatives that promise a pathway into the workforce for opportunity youth and adults. In particular, we sought to explore how these models could support low-income adults and other underserved populations to enhance their readiness and access to sustainable employment opportunities and longer-term career pathways.

In Path To Employment, they explore how an expanding segment of non-traditional programs are both helping low-income adults improve their skills and connecting them to meaningful entry-level jobs and new career pathways.

Part 1 – Establishing Effective Program Pillars

In response to a number of factors, a growing collection of companies and organizations are launching programs tightly aligned with individuals’ desire to secure robust employment opportunities and employers’ needs to identify and recruit scarce and/or specialized talent; these initiatives are referred to as “Alternative Pathways Programs.”

Part 1 of Path to Employment, introduces and defines Alternative Pathways Programs and details their potential to augment the education-to-employment pathways for low-income adults. In addition, they identify and described six Program Pillars that represent critical design considerations for providers seeking to achieve outcomes with low-income adult learners.

Read the full Part 1 Report

Part 2 – Alternative Pathways Program Profiles

Part 2 of Path to Employment takes a closer look at how a dynamic cohort of Alternative Pathway program organizations are driving success for participants through well-designed models that draw on the principles included in our six Program Pillars. Profiles for nine organizations are included, each illustrating one or more of the preferred Pillar models for low-income participants.

Across the publications, they highlight important implications and opportunities for stakeholders supporting low-income adult populations, including policymakers, employers, funders, and traditional providers such as community colleges and social services agencies, and share a broad list of innovative providers in the space.

The profiles focus on each program’s distinct areas of excellence for the benefit of other stakeholders serving low-income adults.

Read the full Part 2 report

Across the publications, they highlight important implications and opportunities for stakeholders supporting low-income adult populations, including policymakers, employers, funders, and traditional providers such as community colleges and social services agencies, and share a broad list of innovative providers in the space.

Mar 9 Why I Moved to Indiana and Joined 180 Skills

Why I Moved to Indiana and Joined 180 Skills
180 Skills
Last month, I posted a blog on LinkedIn that was a personal reflection of why I love manufacturing. It shared a bit about what powers my passion and purpose. People. Every single day, I get out of bed wanting to support the people that make our lives easier and make this country great, our nation’s manufacturers.

I was overwhelmed by the response to the post and thought it was important to share the second half of the story.

When I announced my departure from the Manufacturing Institute, the first question I heard was, “Who is 180 Skills?” The second was, “Why 180 Skills?”

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the movie Casablanca, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Why, of all the opportunities presented to me over the past several years, was this the one I selected? Why did I pack up my life, my husband, and my house and move to Indianapolis, Indiana, to join 180 Skills as their new president? Because 180 Skills is leading the way with online technical education that brings manufacturers and individuals together to fill the skills gap.

The skills gap captures headlines and shows up in my news feed daily. A quick internet search of the manufacturing skills gap returns over 600,000 results.

Over the past decade, I have met with thousands of manufacturers who have shared their stories about the difficulties they have finding qualified workers. At an event in Connecticut several years ago, a manufacturer indicated that his current recruiting approach was to position someone at the entrance of the facility with a sandwich board advertising “Help Wanted.”

What is often missing when we discuss the skills gap are the stories of the individuals looking for great careers to help them support their families. The stories of those individuals have yet to be written. I consider them to be stories of hope.

I love manufacturing and the ability to connect individuals to great careers that can change lives. At a time in our history when the news seems to cover only what you could argue is the worst of us as a nation, I choose to focus on the best. What can I do today that will help create the next story?

According to the most recent national skills gap report published by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, over the next decade nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled and the skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled…2 million stories never written.

I know companies that have spent years working with partners on this challenge. With enough time, every company can succeed, but time is our enemy. Manufacturers have jobs that are open today, and individuals and companies need support and an answer that helps lead the way.

At 180 Skills, we have proven that if you deliver education that aligns with employer-defined competencies, the learner gets the job. That’s what we call “Education in a Box.”

Starting today, we are releasing three different boxes that align with the needs of employers, educators, and the workforce system.
180 Skills Education in a box

For employers

Industry-defined manufacturing education in a box. Manufacturers can deploy pre-hire training, post-hire training, employee advancement, and employee enrichment.

For educators

Industry-defined, academically aligned manufacturing education in a box. Educators can deploy academic programs, workforce programs, and business and industry programs.

For workforce

Industry-defined, academically aligned, WIOA-ready manufacturing education in a box. Workforce professionals can deploy occupation-aligned education to support the needs of veterans in transition, disconnected youth, adults in need of retraining (IET), and dislocated workers.

We need your leadership and action. Follow our efforts as we unpack our boxes and work to create the next generation of makers.

Jennifer McNelly is president of 180 Skills LLC and serves as a national resource in closing the manufacturing skills gap. Jennifer has over 20 years of public and private sector experience in workforce development.
180 Skills


Indianapolis – February 13, 2017 – Today, 180 Skills, LLC, is announcing that it has selected Jennifer McNelly as its new President. Jennifer will join 180 Skills on February 16, 2017.

As President, Jennifer will lead industry engagement and strategy for 180 Skills, focusing on national and international strategic partnerships.

Joe Kitterman, Founder and CEO of 180 Skills said, “We are excited to have Jennifer join our team. As a nationally recognized expert in workforce development, Jennifer will help us form strategic partnerships that will address our national skills gap and address critical training needs in high-growth, high-demand jobs.”

Prior to joining 180 Skills, Jennifer was President and Executive Director of The Manufacturing Institute, the national authority on the attraction, qualification, and development of world class manufacturing talent. Under her leadership, the Institutes drove an agenda to close the manufacturing skills gap and make manufacturers in America globally competitive.

For over a decade, Jennifer led national efforts to change the perception of careers and reestablish the U.S. as the global leader of technical education. Jennifer led efforts to elevate the national dialogue on manufacturing with research; Change national and state investments in manufacturing education to improve quality by aligning to industry standards; engage millions of students via National Manufacturing Day and the Dream It. Do It. Network; and, inspire an army of women leaders in industry to advocate for manufacturing careers, founding the national STEP Ahead initiative.

Jennifer has over 20 years of extensive experience in workforce development, employer engagement, and business.

In 2012, Jennifer was named one of the inaugural 100 Women Leaders in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

She is also the immediate past chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Advanced Manufacturing.

Great Education for Real Careers
Founded in 2009, 180 Skills is an online career and technical education experience that fills the skills gap and gets the job done. With a content library of over 700 courses and 1,200 hours of education, 180 Skills enables career seekers to gain the skills they need to attain meaningful careers in the least amount of time.

180 Skills Career and Technical education programs have maintained a 90% graduation and placement rate and our graduates are now employed at over 150 U.S. manufacturing companies.

Learn more at 180 SKills.

Feb 12 180 Skills – Technology Based Exit Strategy

This past year has been a busy one for 180 Skills, LLC. Not only have we launched our new online school but we have been collaborating with the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) and the Soldier for Life Program at Fort Lee in Virginia to offer skills training for their exiting military.

The latest issue of Military Advanced Education & Transition goes into details of the collaboration efforts and the current program options.

Download the magazine by clicking here..

Feb 3 Soft Skills Are Just as Important as Technical Training

Imagine you’re working with a team made up of well educated, intelligent people, none of whom can agree on any aspect of an assigned project. Here’s where you need soft skills training (someone who naturally adapts and can solve problems). You know that the big picture is to create a profitable, detailed presentation that will impress the potential client and speak well of your company. You begin detailing the positive aspects of each member’s point of view, merging the different ideas so that each participant’s voice is heard in a unique way, and the end result is . . . a flawless presentation.

Those soft skills you demonstrated with clear communication, critical thinking, and conflict resolution is just as important to 77 percent of employers as technical training. In fact, according to a study from Careerbuilder, 16 percent of employers said soft skills are more important than hard skills (talents learned for a specific job that can be measured).

Soft Skills: Thinking, Adapting, Taking Initiative

Soft skills are the talents you exude when you can actively listen, think critically, adapt to change, and take initiative. Employers are searching for candidates with these characteristics because they know technical abilities can be taught but soft skills are harder to acquire. But someone who naturally adapts and can solve problems will be a long-term asset to the company.
It’s not surprising that 73 percent of human resource professionals say a strong work ethic is the No. 1 soft skill they look for in a candidate. While experience and advanced training can get you an interview, the majority of employers know soft skills will help you get and keep a great career.
Supervisors want to be able to trust their team members. When you demonstrate soft skills through staying organized, meeting deadlines, and bringing solutions to the table rather than problems, you stand out without even trying. The soft skills training provided by 180 Skills Maker is a suite of online courses focused on conflict resolution, teamwork, and interpersonal communications.

Be A Maker; Be A Leader

Soft skills training with 180 Skills Maker will walk you through courses in the desirable skills of conflict resolution, manufacturing teams, getting and keeping a great career, and technical writing. The goal is to make sure that you’re prepared when spreadsheet talents and analytical abilities simply aren’t enough. You need to be able to take the initiative to deliver more than expected, and that’s where soft skills courses from 180 Skills Maker come into play.

Soft Skills Training

So the real question is, when would you like to begin your online soft skills training with 180 Skills Maker?


Oct 9 Mark Schneider on Whether a Bachelor’s Is Still Necessary to Earn Middle Class Wages

Traditionally, the bachelor’s degree has been seen as the doorway to middle class wages for most Americans, but the recent rise of sub-baccalaureate credentials has been transforming higher education. In this ongoing video series, “Breakthroughs in Education and Social Mobility,” Mark Schneider, AIR vice president and institute fellow, examines the value of such credentials and whether a bachelor’s is still necessary to earn middle class wages.

The Skills Gap Solution to Middle Class Wages

180 Skills Maker is focused on providing online technical education to help fill the skills gap. As the video series states, and many reports back-up, the path to middle class wages is no longer the same old route. Manufacturing jobs are in demand and skilled workers are needed! Our courses will get you ready for jobs in manufacturing that become more than jobs, they are stepping stones to rewarding careers.