Now celebrating its 25th year, the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program remains at the forefront of STEM technician education. NSF recognizes that the ongoing transformation of the workplace means that in the very near future America’s technicians will need to navigate and troubleshoot processes involving artificial intelligence, the Internet-of-things, cybersecurity procedures, advanced robotics, digital design and prototyping, and the way in which these and other advanced technologies interact within horizontally and vertically integrated systems. Because of the rapid changes taking place, NSF has established “The Future of Work at the Human Technology Frontier” (NSF, 2016) as one of its 10 Big Ideas. This collective vision prioritizes NSF investments that “push forward the frontiers of U.S. research and provide innovative approaches to solve some of the most pressing problems the world faces.”

Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work Mission

To enable the ATE Community to collaborate regionally with industry partners, within and across disciplines, on the transformation of associate degree programs to prepare US technicians for the Future of Work.

In recognition of the challenges in technician education that lie just ahead, the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD) is leading a new NSF project titled Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work. The project is launching regional activities in which industry partners, two-year colleges, and ATE community leaders will work together in transforming technician education at the associate degree level.

Supporting the Technicians of the Future

For many of today’s technicians the Future of Work is already in focus. They will soon discover, if they haven’t already, that they are cross-disciplinary workers, immersed in diverse platforms and interrelated systems that once belonged to single industry sectors. On behalf of the ATE community, this project aims to realize the following key outcomes.

  • Industry’s perception of the Future of Work and implications for technician education are identified.
  • New technologies and cross-cutting technologies impacting technician education are identified.
  • Recommendations are developed to address major challenges.
  • ATE centers and projects have new levels of knowledge of the future technician’s role.
  • NSF has detailed knowledge of cross-discipline and emerging discipline issues relative to the Future of Work.


What the Future of Work Will Mean for Jobs, Skills, And Wages

McKinsey Global Institute, December 2017

Information Technology and the U.S. Workforce: Where Are We and Where Do We Go from Here?

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017


National Science Board, 2018
This annual publication is a great source for statistics about trends in STEM education and the STEM-related and technical economy. The following links are particularly relevant to issues within the Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work project.

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Article: Manufacturing Industry Faces Unprecedented Employment Shortfall

Who: Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute
What: Article summarizing salient points of a new skills gap report which contends that persistent skills shortages could risk $454 billion in economic output in 2028, or 17% of U.S. Manufacturing's GDP contribution.