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.


Here's a quick overview of the project rationale, activities, and anticipated outcomes.



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Article: ATE Leadership Caucus Looks to the Future

Who: From the FLATE Focus, the blog of the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center
In mid-December, the new “Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work” project hosted its advisory committee and Principal Investigators from ATE centers, coordination networks and projects in Alexandria, Virginia to explore anticipated impacts on the “future of work” on the advanced technicians graduating from our programs. This event kick-started the four-year ATE special project focused identifying what skills and knowledge the technician workforce will need in the coming decades and how we can best deploy them. The project advisory committee met the day prior to the Caucus and those 10 industry representatives joined the ATE Caucus to share their industry perspectives. The funded “Preparing Technicians” project is providing an important opportunity for the ATE community to come together and look toward the future of technician education and what we will want and need to change in our educational systems to best prepare students for the jobs of the future.

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Article: NSF Encourages ATE PIs to Pursue “Big Idea” Opportunities

Who: Madeline Patton, for ATE Impacts Blog from ATE Central
Three National Science Foundation (NSF) program directors are encouraging ATE principal investigators to become involved in The Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF) and Harnessing the Data Revolution—two of NSF’s Ten New Big Ideas for Future Investment—because they have the potential to overlap with technician education.