The National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored Advanced Technological Education Centers’ (ATE) website is a great place to get a keen understanding of how this program, started in 1992, has contributed immensely to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce and economic development in the U.S.
Community Colleges Leading the Way
Community colleges from across the country play a leadership role in the growth and development of ATE centers and projects. Through meaningful collaborations and partnerships with universities, secondary schools, business and industry, and government agencies, ATE has become the largest community college initiative in the NSF portfolio, with a budget that has increased on an annual basis from 13.5 million in 1994 to $64 million in 2010. More than 972 ATE grants have been awarded in every state, Guam and Puerto Rico.
An April 16 feature article, also published here in the workforce development section of TrainingIndustry.com, covered the Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative (AMTEC), which is the first ATE Center listed alphabetically under the section named Advanced Manufacturing Technologies. There are an additional 38 ATE centers listed under a total of seven sections, including Agricultural, Energy & Environmental Technologies; Biotechnology & Chemical Processes; Electronics, Micro & Nanotechnologies; Engineering Technologies; Information, Geospatial & Security Technologies; and Learning, Evaluation & Research. This is the second in a planned series of articles about ATE Centers.
NSF Awards Bring Prestige and More
“The ATE program has helped out community colleges a great deal,” said David Campbell NSF Program Director in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources. Whenever it is announced that a community college has won an NSF award, people start paying attention, he added. “The community colleges are then able to leverage the NSF award to attract other funds from industry, as well as in-kind contributions, such as equipment donations. It gives them a certain cache in the business community.”
Developing Modern STEM-Related Curriculums in Partnership with Industry, Corporate Training Companies, Secondary and Postsecondary Institutions, and Government Agencies
Sometimes the pathway to becoming an NSF-funded ATE Center starts out with a relatively small planning grant to a community college or organization in the range of about $70,000. Other times it can be the end result of a multiple-year ATE project award where, for instance, a group of community colleges, plus a variety of partners that can often include corporate training companies, develop a new associate degree program in a STEM field.
The next due date for ATE-related full proposals is October 18, 2012. For more information, visit www.nsf.gove/ate. As noted, in brief, from the guidelines for submitting proposals: “The ATE program focuses on two-year colleges and expects two-year colleges to have a leadership role in all projects. Effective technological education programs should involve partnerships in which two-year colleges work with four-year colleges and universities, secondary schools, business, industry, and government, and should respond to employers' needs for well-prepared technicians with the ability to learn and embrace change.”
When submitting a proposal for ATE-related funding opportunities, Campbell said that NSF prefers to see applicants that have already laid the ground work for any corporate-training elements, among many other key elements, as noted above. “A competitive proposal should have already made initial contact with industry and have a plan to work with industry to develop a DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) process as they go along,” he explained.
Check Out “Impact 2011”
In the meantime, it is especially interesting to page through the NSF publication that features what these ATE Centers are all about, titled “Impact 2011.” Here, interested parties can obtain a birds-eye view of what all 39 ATE Centers are dealing with and accomplishing. For example, under Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, it is noted that the U.S. needs 30,000 new welders each year to address the call for 238,000 new and replacement workers through 2019. Helping to meet that need is Weld-Ed, the National Center for Welding Education and Training. Led by Loraine County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, “in three years Weld-Ed’s 10 partner institutions graduated more than 17,000 students.”
At Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, the Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative (NBC2) has been fueling the growth of biomanufacturing programs nationally. “More than 2,700 students were enrolled in 47 biotechnology degree programs in 17 states in fall 2009. Thirty-four of these biotechnology programs had at least one NBC² biomanufacturing course within their degree program.”
At Chemeketa Community College in Salem Oregon, the Northwest Center for Sustainable Resources (NCSR) has become an important provider of classroom-ready materials for the natural resources education community. “Faculty teaching in more than 700 associate and bachelor’s degree natural resource programs use NCSR materials. The natural resources workforce will play a critical role in America’s socioeconomic well-being during the next 40 years when the world population is expected to grow from 6.8 to 9.3 billion people.”
Good, Productive Work Overall
Finally, Campbell, who works on a variety of NSF programs, added that the ATE work is the most enjoyable. He is also testimony to how valuable ATE-related community colleges are to the growth of our nation’s workforce and economic development efforts. “The principal investigators are very enthusiastic,” Campbell said. “The projects are very focused. They are not getting a grant to get a promotion or tenure. The motivation for most of the principal investigators is genuinely to help students get a good education, so it is a very rewarding program. The focus and intensity of the principal investigators is very refreshing.”
Written for TrainingIndustry.com