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Career Pathways for STEM Technicians

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Gainful Employment: Preparing Technicians to Satisfy the Needs of Industry

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.257.1 - 24.257.12



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Paper Authors


Daniel M. Hull P.E. OP-TEC

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Registered Professional Engineer, BSEE Univ. TX, MSEE Univ. Pitt,
PI and Executive Director, OP-TEC, the NSF/ATE National Center for Optics and Photonics Education

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Greg Kepner M. Ed. Indian Hills Community College

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GREG KEPNER, M. Ed., is the Department Chair for Advanced Manufacturing Technology programs at Indian Hills Community College. Greg serves as a Co-Principal Investigator for OP-TEC, the NSF-ATE National Center for Optics and Photonics Education. He has administrative responsibility for the leadership of the manufacturing technology programs at IHCC. He has served as Industrial Technology Coordinator and has taught automation, robotics, and electronics. He developed an Early College program in which high school students earn post-secondary credits towards an AAS degree in Lasers, Robotics, or Electronics Engineering. He has previously worked as a Senior Field Service Engineer in semiconductor manufacturing and is currently serving on the boards of the Iowa Association of Career and Technical Education and the Iowa Industrial Technology Education Association.

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Career Pathways for STEM Technicians AbstractThis paper presents a “win-win” solution to two problems that are facing our nation:  We don’t have enough technicians to support continued technological innovation or to staff the organizations that could improve our country’s economic position in the world.  We don’t have adequate educational opportunities for capable, struggling high school students who need—and deserve—an opportunity to enter a rewarding career.We have the tools and institutions in place to implement the proposed solution:  Associate-degree technical-education programs. Our community and technical colleges offer these programs using curricula and teaching materials that have been specified by the industries and employers who want to hire technicians. They are taught by competent faculty members who have been trained in both the content and in the strategies that can help technical students succeed in their careers.  High School STEM programs and academies. Over 4000 specialized STEM programs have been formed over the past decade to interest, attract, and cultivate students to enter postsecondary education in preparation for careers in engineering, science, and technology. But these STEM high schools are largely attracting and enrolling the “A students” and preparing them to enter BS degree programs in science and engineering.The dilemma we face is this:  Most of the colleges offering technician education in the new and emerging technologies do not have an adequate number of capable students enrolling in and completing their associate degree programs.  Most of the high school STEM programs are not attracting and serving the students who have the greatest potential to become the technicians we need.The solution this paper presents is for STEM high schools to also attract and enroll “B and Cstudents” who have the interest and abilities as to be engineering technicians. The strategy isnot prohibitively expensive or excessively time consuming; neither does it require that existinginstitutions and programs sacrifice the goals or quality of the programs that they have alreadyput in place.But the solution does require some changes:  Recognition—by educators and parents—that the high school students who are our potential technicians are not receiving the career guidance and education that they need.  Engagement in a process that will identify students who may be interested in becoming technicians and encouragement for those students to enter a career pathway that will lead them through an associate degree program and on to a career as a technician.  A commitment to providing an alternative Career Pathway in STEM high schools that will serve these students through dual-credit and articulated secondary/postsecondary coursework.This presentation is based on a book recently authored by the presenter, entitled “CareerPathways for STEM Technicians”. Strategies are presented to engage leadership at highschools, community colleges and interested industry to make these changes.

Hull, D. M., & Kepner, G. (2014, June), Career Pathways for STEM Technicians Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20148

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