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
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.
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.