One of the milestones of a school year in a Pennsylvania career and technical education (CTE) center is NOCTI and NIMS testing. NOCTI (National Occupational Competency Testing Institute) is a series of state-mandated, industry-specific standardized tests for CTE students. NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) is a similar standardized test specifically for the precision machining industry. These tests include both written and hands-on examinations. The hands-on testing includes large numbers of volunteers from many industries to evaluate the students. Our students study diligently for these tests each year and have a history of performing admirably.
Last spring, in the midst of the pandemic’s shutdown of public schools, state government permitted CTE Centers, like the Lancaster County CTC, to waive NOCTI/NIMS testing. This year, there is cause to be optimistic about the future of instruction in the state with the broadening rollout of vaccinations for students and the general public later in April. However, we cannot gather the qualified industry volunteers in person to administer the NOCTI hands-on tests this year and still adhere to the approved safety recommendations in the CTC’s Health and Safety Plan.
Apart from the safety recommendations, instructional time for individual students and whole classes has been affected by the pandemic. Collectively over the course of the last and current school year, the pandemic caused over 150,000 individual hours of in-person, hands-on instruction time lost at the student and institutional levels. These hours include individual student and instructor days missed, entire class quarantines, and hands-on time lost during hybrid instruction in December.
Our faculty and staff have done astounding work to maintain a continuity of instruction during times when quarantine forced a pivot to online learning. No matter the effectiveness of the teaching, students and classes are still frequently entering and exiting Covid-19 quarantine causing loss of hands-on instruction time. As a result of this attendance churn, some students may be more prepared for NOCTI/NIMS than others through no fault of their own. That imbalance is not fair to our students.
The LCCTC’s Joint Operating Committee (JOC) authorized the CTC to request a waiver of NOCTI and NIMS testing for this school year. We have received approval of that waiver from the state. However, the LCCTC recognizes the importance of the NOCTI and NIMS to our students and will be administering the written portion of these examinations in the coming weeks.
NOTCI/NIMS results do not affect the various certifications and skills lists that students earn. Those skills are tested throughout the school year and presented to students at the end of the year. Successful completion of the NOCTI/NIMS testing is required to qualify for some post-secondary credit programs like Students Occupationally and Academically Ready (SOAR). However, in the aftermath of the pandemic shutdown and the suspension of NOCTI and NIMS in the spring of 2020, state government, colleges and universities worked together to provide students with the credits that had hinged on NOCTI/NIMS participation. We have every expectation that a similar collaboration will occur this year.