Preparing to upskill for the next industrial revolution

MITili Staff

In a recently released whitepaper, Preparing the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce: A Study of Occupation and Skills Demand in the Photonics Industry, a team from MIT including George Westerman, Principal Research Scientist for J-WEL Workforce Learning, laid out a roadmap for preparing workers for future technologies. The paper focuses on the Photonics industry, but as Westerman says, “This will synchronize the expected evolution of technology and workforce needs for other emerging technologies, which will help educators and employers better plan for the future of these emerging technologies.” 

The MIT research team developed and deployed a survey to operations managers in the fiber optics and silicon-based integrated photonics supply chain throughout the United States. They found that there would be hiring challenges and a strong demand for the following: 

  • Photonics Technicians
  • Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technicians
  • Computer-controlled (CNC) Machine Tools Operators
  • Optical Equipment Operators
  • Semiconductor Processors

They also used surveys to find out what skills would be needed to fill these positions. The follow table simplifies these results in terms of importance to the employers: 










If other employers are to review these results concerning generalized skills and examining the responses across all technical workers, they would find that there is a clear trend to increase education in the following areas: 

  • Fabrication processes and methods
  • Design of tests (for product or process quality) and interpretation of test data
  • Diagnosis and troubleshooting of processing issues
  • Collaboration and communications with other parts of the firm

As such, MIT along with our partners, is working toward creating a bridge between a technician and the type of new higher-skilled and technical workers who will drive the next generation of skilled workers in photonics and other advanced manufacturing careers. And while the paper does focus primarily on technical skills, that focus in no way implies that the research team believes that such technical skills are more important than other non-technical skills (also known as “soft” or human skills). Research was focused on technical skills based on the primary goal of developing insights to shape training programs aimed to support the photonics industry. 

You can learn more about MIT’s work with MassBridge here