As the Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work project celebrates its first birthday, it’s time to stop and ask, “What have we learned?” and “What have we accomplished?” Some highlights of Year 1 include:
Piloting an industry site visit/interview protocol and interviewing technicians, technician supervisors, and mid‐level managers,
Producing informative content exploring industry, education, and human resource issues relevant to the Future of Work,
Identifying three broad, cross‐cutting skill areas that should be included as “new fundamentals” in STEM technician training programs, and
Convening meetings of ATE Center Directors and industry leaders to examine the Future of Work at the human‐technology interface from multiple perspectives.
Technology allows people who are building and developing things to do it in virtual space, the digital space, and then to use the information from that exact duplicate and build the part. Companies are looking for ways to get a competitive advantage and that’s the promise of the digital twin.
You can now simulate the manufacturing of that part, make a change, and see where it works and where it doesn’t before investing in its production. The collaboration between manufacturing engineers has also improved in areas such as end-to-end information flow and teamwork.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence help robots become smarter and more aware of their surroundings, so that they can work on their own. As they become more independent and can make the decisions on their own, productivity should improve.
But at the same time that robots are becoming more versatile, they are also becoming more complex. A different technician skill set will be needed. As some tasks are assumed by robots, new tasks in robot maintenance and programming will evolve. And hopefully technicians can upskill to meet these new technological challenges.
What if a student would like to earn credit in bite-sized pieces? What if employers valued shorter-time, competency-based credentials? Micro-credentials might be an answer.
Intrigued? Podcast guest Timothy Thomas says that learning opportunities need to shift to be more personalized, more practical, more applied, and nimbler. After working with industry to design their initial AAS degree in Unmanned Aerial Systems Technology, he then asked them whether they would find value in shorter-term, competency-based credentials. This gave birth to the micro-credential, a sequence of 9-15 credit hours, often 3 courses, designed to facilitate the attainment of a single competency. The road to micro-credentialing was not easy. There were faculty and departments to convince this was a wise course of action. Thomas graciously shared the language that Mohawk Valley adopted to describe their micro-credentials so you can get a head start!
How can industry inspire students to envision themselves working in advanced manufacturing? And how can colleges attract and recruit students into existing high-tech career pathways programs? One approach, FlexFactor, combines strategic collaboration between organizations and student-led experiential learning to spark interest and spur recruitment.
The program reaches students—the workforce of the future—through plant and college tours and problem-solving activities that can be integrated into classroom instruction in any subject. The industry and academic partnerships encourage students to consider potential careers so that they can make informed decisions about career pathways that will lead them to become competitive hires.