National Science Foundation
ATE Center Responds to the Changing ICT Industry
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An ICT laboratory technician tests telecommunications circuitry.

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State: Massachusetts

The dot-com bust of the late 1990’s resulted in a convergence of the Telecommunications Industries and the Information Technologies Industries creating the Information and Communications Industries (ICT). The ICT industry is complex and is characterized by a few large corporations and many smaller companies. The industry can differ regionally depending on the legacy technology employed by the local industry. Complicating matters further, over the last four years, ICT has evolved and has infused in all disciplines and impacts almost every industry, including computers, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, defense and homeland security, healthcare, communications, transportation, energy, environmental sciences, entertainment, chemicals, and manufacturing. These changes and the emerging technologies that continue to arise are changing skills required for the ICT technician. Today’s communications companies and their technician workforce require a broader and deeper knowledge of both the hardware and the software involved to avoid dead-end technical jobs that cannot be easily transferred within the ICT industry. 

The National Center for Telecommunications Technologies (NCTT)  has responded to the change in industry, to changes in the technologies in the communications industry, and to the new knowledge requirements, by establishing a national collaborative of community colleges around the country working with industry partners to capture the breadth of skills needed to successfully function in this new environment. Currently, the collaborative consists of 10 community college partners with relationships with over 50 corporations. These relationships range from curriculum advisement to hiring of students to attending NCTT sponsored workshops. This type of sharing of information and concepts enables best practices in technical education to become standard operating procedures for educators throughout the United States. The content derived from these relationships is managed and disseminated through NCTT’s open content system.

NCTT conducts workshops in January and July of each year. Each workshop serves as an ICT content dissemination mechanism for high school and college faculty and business leaders. Additionally, the January workshop is hosted by a regional partner and serves as a regional network building event. The workshops combine theory and hands-on laboratory training. They provide a tested dissemination model and continue to be well attended and highly rated by participants. More than 700 faculty have attended these workshops during NCTT’s ten years of operation. Eight percent of the faculty were from vocational technical high schools, 68 percent from two-year schools, and 24percent from four-year schools. The faculty attending the workshops have taught three hundred students from vocational technical high schools, 2,220 from two-year colleges, 285 from four-year colleges, totaling 2,805 students. Additionally, more than 2,320 students from underrepresented populations have been impacted by the NCTT workshops.

NCTT continues to develop and disseminate a unique engineering technology-based content and curriculum grounded in science and math. This distinguishes the NCTT curriculum and content from other related programs available to students and corporate training programs. NCTT faculty members have published six text books and two related lab manuals. NCTT, through an additional grant, is completing 20 ICT laboratory experiments to be delivered in multiple formats that will address different learning modalities and technical levels for national dissemination.

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