As demand explodes for skilled workers in advanced manufacturing and the trades in Minnesota, the value of top-notch Career and Technical Education teachers is becoming increasingly evident. Our state is fortunate that the American Technical Education Association (ATEA)—the nation’s premier professional association for post-secondary CTE educators—is headquartered in Minneapolis, on the campus of Dunwoody College of Technology.

ATEA’s board of trustees, who hail from 17 states, includes statewide community and technical college leaders, institutional presidents, deans and faculty, and business leaders.  The association provides cutting-edge professional development for CTE faculty, promotes the role and importance of technical education and highlights trends that affect it, shares best practices, and builds professional relationships through networking. It publishes a biannual journal and sponsors national and regional conferences.

ATEA’s 56th annual conference—entitled “Racing Through Industry 4.0”—took place in Indianapolis in April 2019 and was hosted by Indiana’s Ivy Technical College. The conference explored the combination of data analytics, robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence that promises to revolutionize American manufacturing. One enthusiastic participant described the experience, with its workshops, tours, and networking opportunities, as “the Disney World of technical education.”

Conference keynote speakers included Dr. Randy Swearer, head of Autodesk’s Education Experiences team. He described how work and learning will “co-evolve as the interweaving of data, machine intelligence and human experience transform what we know and how we work.” Another speaker was James Wall, executive director of the non-profit Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA). SACA has developed standards and certifications for “connected systems” skills that communicate to employers what technical professionals know and can do.

Breakout session topics at the conference ranged from training students to understand, troubleshoot and maintain autonomous vehicles to “Developing Industry 4.0 Pathways: A Partnership between K-12, Post-Secondary, and Industry.”

Next up: ATEA’s upper Midwest regional conference, entitled “Connect Now to Next,” which will take place at Dunwoody College on October 3-5, 2019. The event will explore Industry 4.0 themes, and will feature keynote speaker Jason Feist, Managing Technologist, CTO Office at Seagate Technology. Feist is an expert in data storage, and is currently responsible for developing Seagate’s hyperscale cloud and edge storage research technology strategy, with emphasis on canonical use cases for date analysis, storage, movement and security.

ATEA’s executive director, who keeps all these balls in the air, is Dr. Sandra Krebsbach. Previously, Krebsbach served as Dean of the Division of Technical Trade and Apprenticeship Programs at Saint Paul College, and Director of Partnership Programs at the University of Minnesota in Rochester before it became UM-R. Her responsibilities there included creating pathways from Rochester Community and Technical College and other two-year colleges to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities bachelor degree programs.

Surprisingly, Krebsbach is only the fourth executive director in ATEA’s 91-year history. The organization was founded in 1928 in Delmar, New York, and its national headquarters moved to the campus of North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton in 1973. It moved to the Dunwoody campus in 2012.

As ATEA points out in promotional materials for its upcoming regional conference, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already changing the way we live and work; fusing technologies; and blurring the lines between the physical, technological and biological spheres.” Minnesota is fortunate to be home to a technical education association on the cutting edge of developments that promise to transform our world.

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