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 work of the future.
In recognition of the challenges in technician education that lie just ahead, the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD) is leading the NSF project 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.
A recent issue of FLATE Focus highlights important discussions held at HI-TEC 2019 surrounding the impact of the Future of Work on preparing STEM technicians for work in advanced technology workplaces.