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“ExLENT” Programme Launched in the U.S.

Image credits: beta.nsf.gov

Experiential Learning for Emerging and Novel Technologies, or ExLENT, is a new US$30 million workforce development programme launched by the National Science Foundation in the United States.

Individuals interested in entering or getting more expertise in developing and novel technology fields, such as advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, quantum information science, and semiconductors and microelectronics, will have more access to practical learning opportunities.

“The ExLENT programme offers a new pathway for individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences to gain on-the-job training in technologies that are critical to the nation’s long-term competitiveness,” says Erwin Gianchandani, NSF assistant director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships.

The programme will promote partnerships between firms in emerging technological domains and those with expertise in workforce development by awarding up to US$1 million over three years. In addition, ExLENT will connect interested companies, governments, and nonprofits with current and potential learners in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics who are seeking paid opportunities to explore career paths and develop skills in emerging technology areas, using a cohort model and emphasising the importance of mentorship.

The programme recognises that standard STEM education pathways are insufficient to solve the nation’s huge manpower shortages in new technology domains. Individuals at various phases of their careers or with diverse levels of expertise in the STEM sector might benefit from training to promote more equitable access to high-skill, well-paying STEM job opportunities.

Partnerships, according to James L. Moore III, NSF assistant director for Education and Human Resources, are the future of STEM innovation, and ExLENT’s cohort and mentoring model will help many individuals develop much-needed skills to support the STEM workforce needs, particularly in areas critical to the nation’s prosperity and security.

ExLENT submissions are due on 2 March 2023, and it provides three pathways for people with varying levels of STEM experience, including:

  • Track: Pivots – Provides current professionals in any sector with an opportunity for practical learning that develops the skills and abilities required to pivot into professions in new technological fields.
  • Track: Beginnings – Provides individuals with little STEM training with an immersive learning opportunity to develop deeper knowledge and experience to pursue a career in an emerging technological industry.
  • Track: Explorations – Provides participants with no prior STEM background with an experiential learning opportunity that increases their interest, motivation, and understanding in an emerging technology field and stimulates them to further explore prospective career paths in these areas.

Meanwhile, quantum information science and engineering, or QISE, is having a large and growing effect on society and the economy. This opens new challenges and opportunities. The “National Quantum Initiative Act,” which was passed in 2018, gives the U.S. National Science Foundation a mandate to build capacity, increase participation, increase access, and expand opportunities. This is a key part of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s founding mission to advance scientific leadership and support research that breaks down barriers.

The NSF Expanding Capacity in Quantum Information Science and Engineering programme helps fund work in quantum fundamentals, metrology and control, co-design and systems, and education and workforce development. The 2022 ExpandQISE awards cost the NSF US$21,397,566.

The people who get the grants will do research in many different fields, such as physics, computer science, materials research, engineering, and chemistry. Awardees come from a wide range of colleges and universities.

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