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 and a summary of this year's accomplishments.



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Article: 2019 HI-TEC Conference: Focused on the Future

Who: From the FLATE Focus, the blog of the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center
One important focus area of HI-TEC 2019 was the impact of the Future of Work on preparing technicians for work in advanced technology workplaces. This effort is led by a project funded by NSF ATE to CORD (The Center for Occupational Research and Development). Some of the questions being asked include:

  • What new technologies do educators need to “add” to their programs?
  • Are there some new skills coming into (or already there!) the technician working environment?
  • If so, what are these skills? Are they connected to/extensions of any existing skill sets? Are they add-on skills or perhaps “replacement” skills? What will go away? How soon will this happen?
  • Will there be more common fundamental skills across disciplines?
  • Will research and design engineering and scientist skills move down to technicians due to IT?
  • And, very importantly, what do our technicians need to know and be able to do relative to systems security?

Recent Blog Posts

The ABCs of I4.0: What Technicians Need to Know about Incoming Technologies
Mariano Carreras, International Training Manager, SMC International • August 15, 2019

Leadership 4.0: People Development in the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Thomas Lichtenberger, President and CEO, Festo Didactic • May 21, 2019

Whose Responsibility is Information Security, Anyway? And How Do We Address This in Our Future Education Programs?
Dawn Montemayer, Virtual Chief Security Officer, Cyber Risk Solutions • April 5, 2019