ATE@20 Showcases Accomplishments of NSF's Advanced Technological Education Program

The National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program is celebrating twenty years of supporting technician education this year. 
Begun in 1993, the ATE program supports innovative efforts to improve the education of incumbent and prospective technicians, and the professional development of educators who teach them. The program focuses on technician preparation in fields vital to the nation's security such as information technology, manufacturing, agriculture, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and engineering technology. 

As part of this celebration ATE Central, a crosscutting ATE project that aims to support and highlight the
work of the 300-plus funded projects and centers, is spearheading the  ATE@20 Book + Blog project—showcasing the accomplishments of the ATE program during the past 20 years. The blog aims to reach students, parents, educators, as well as business and industry partners with articles about successful technicians and cutting-edge technical education programs. The blog will feature stories throughout the anniversary year and entries may be reprinted or reused. The book, which chronicles the program with feature stories and programmatic data infographics, will be released in October. 

Since it was created in response to the Scientific and Advanced Technology Act of 1992, the ATE program's various student recruitment efforts have meshed with the National Careers Pathway Network to encourage youngsters to enter technical careers and to improve the opportunities of underemployed adults.

Recognition that true change rarely happens in isolation led to requirements that ATE initiatives:
  • involve two-year college educators in leadership roles
  • collaborate with employers
  • connect with secondary school teachers and university faculty
Gerhard Salinger, a National Science Foundation (NSF) program director who was co-lead of the ATE program from 1993 through 2012, said the team involved in structuring the competitive grant program wanted broad and deep partnerships for a simple reason: "We could get more done if people collaborated." Collegiality among ATE principal investigators is another program hallmark. "We wanted it to be a program and not just a series of grants."

Elizabeth J. Teles, who was co-lead of ATE with Salinger from 1993 to 2009. They hoped that a network of partnerships beyond the particular college department or campus receiving an ATE grant would help sustain activities and lead to other innovations after the NSF grant funding ended."I just saw too many people acting in isolation, not realizing there were components in other projects. I had worked in a few projects at my college, and I felt like we did them, but we didn't have any idea what other people who were being supported were doing,” Teles said. She taught mathematics at Montgomery College before a fellowship at the NSF led to her employment as a program director.

The annual ATE Principal Investigators' Conference is an example of NSF investment in building a truly collaborative ATE community.  At these high-energy meetings, ATE grant recipients share their successes and challenges to improve overall practices, and build professional networks that have frequently led to other collaborations. For instance, several consortia formed by ATE centers have been awarded large Department of Labor grants.

As the NSF’s largest community college investment, ATE has broadened the federal government’s definition of STEM workforce. By focusing on the associate degree programs offered by two-year colleges—primarily by public community colleges, ATE provides technicians with a solid academic foundation that enables them to learn throughout their careers.  ATE enhancements to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses equip students to move more efficiently on career paths from high school to two-year colleges, from two-year colleges to technical careers, and from two-year colleges to four-year institutions.
The innovative ATE initiatives established throughout the nation and the free information available to anyone who wants to emulate these model educational programs improve educational practices, students’ opportunities, and ultimately the nation’s prosperity.

For more information about the ATE program or the ATE@20 Book+Blog project visit: http://atecentral.net and the ATE@20 Blog at https://atecentral.net/ate20