Project Facilitates Regional Convening on Future of Work

The nature of work is changing right before our eyes. The effects of accelerating technology advancements on the technician workforce are posing challenges and opportunities for community colleges whose mission includes preparing STEM technicians for the uncertain work of the future. Conversations between educators and employers are underway across the country to identify the cross-cutting knowledge and skills that will be required of STEM technicians and determine how best to equip them to remain competitive in the future workplace.

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I Did That with My Brain! High School Students Explore Physiological Computing

Chris Crawford, Assistant Professor, Computer Science, University of Alabama • September 3, 2019

Advances in Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) are enabling the exploration of novel input techniques. Innovations in this area have resulted in technologies such as neuroprosthetics and brain-controlled wheelchairs. However, there is a lack of research investigating the design of technological tools that prepare the future workforce for this emerging technology. Furthermore, there have been limited investigations of how K-12 technological tools featuring BCI technology support the acquisition of computational thinking skills. Our project, Exploring Physiological Computing Education in the Alabama Black Belt, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Research on Learning, began addressing this gap by holding Neuro Summer Camp 2019.

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The ABCs of I4.0: What Technicians Need to Know about Incoming Technologies

Mariano Carreras, International Training Manager, SMC International • August 15, 2019

New technologies are emerging that are, or soon will be, a part of a technician’s day-to-day routine in manufacturing plants. One sweeping trend is that most of the new technologies are related to data—the ”fuel” that is driving processes. With improved data, we can make better decisions, so technicians need to be aware of how and why data is gathered, how data flows and what to do with it. Adoption of new technologies will vary according to the type and size of industry, of course, and the cost of equipment and training, but here are some that will change the role of the technicians interacting with them.

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Special Interest Group Hosts Forward-Looking Conversations to Address the Future of Work

Tiffiney Gray, Project Manager, CORD • August 9, 2019

Technology advancements associated with Industry 4.0—including more sophisticated automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning—present both the need and the opportunity to reimagine and retool technician training to meet the knowledge and skill demands of a rapidly-changing workplace. With support from the NSF Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program, the Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work project convened a Special Interest Group comprised of industry leaders and technician educators at HI-TEC in St. Louis, Missouri. The project facilitated discussions between industry representatives and ATE leaders with a variety of expertise (e.g., advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, information technology, cybersecurity, etc.) to determine ways to actively prepare for the impacts of emerging technologies on the future of work and on the skilled technical workforce. 

The group’s discussions also underscored the need to significantly broaden the skill set of the 20th-century technician to cultivate the advanced technician of the 21st century. Discussions centered around three cross-disciplinary trends (identified by participants in earlier convenings) that represent knowledge and skills to be integrated as essential elements of STEM associate degree programs alongside traditional technical skills: data knowledge and analysis, advanced digital literacy, and business knowledge and processes.

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Leadership 4.0: People Development in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Thomas Lichtenberger, President and CEO, Festo Didactic 
May 21, 2019

When thinking about manufacturing in America, what comes to mind? Big data processing, cloud-based systems, advanced robotics, and artificial intelligence? If not, they should. The significance of these technologies cannot be overstated. Take AI for example. When used for predictive maintenance AI’s greatest value to manufacturing comes from predictive maintenance, yielding $0.5 trillion to $0.7 trillion across the world’s businesses.1 So this Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, has ushered in an unprecedented technological revolution, and with it, paradigm shifts that affect us all. The complexities and infinite possibilities of Industry 4.0 can be wondrous, and overwhelming. For many automation companies, it’s presenting a management challenge in terms of ensuring individuals, teams, and the organizational structure as a whole can adjust accordingly when new technology and software is introduced. 

In this fast-moving innovative environment, what is to be expected and what will be required from Industry 4.0 leaders? How should we adapt in what has been defined by Oxford Leadership2 as a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) environment? Radical changes in the work environment present a call to action to rethink and revamp our collective approach to leadership and organizational change.

Leadership 4.03, a relatively new concept, was designed as a blueprint for workforce adaptability in the Industrial Internet of Things era. It aims to harness the talents of individuals in order to maximize technological advancements. Fifty years ago, the average lifespan for most large companies was 60 years, today it’s 15 years. Advancing people development and closing the skills gap is becoming more urgent since leadership can make or break a company’s ability to adapt and remain agile amidst rising global competition, frequent market changes, and volatility.

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