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Preparing the United States Workforce for the Future of Tech

Ensuring professional standards are current is crucial in maintaining a country’s economic strength, stability, and competitiveness. In light of this, the United States is implementing the new U.S. Government National Standards Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technology (USG NNSCET), a set of plans to establish standardized practices that will allow the nation’s workforce to operate and adapt seamlessly as technology advances. It aims to ensure consistency and reliability in areas such as cybersecurity and AI.

The Columbia School of Professional Studies’ Career Design Lab hosted a listening session on the USG NNSCET to examine emerging standards for new technologies. Leaders in government joined School of Professional Studies faculty from the M.S. in Human Capital Management and M.S. in Technology Management programs to discuss ways to prepare workplaces as they encounter the challenges that come with current and future technological innovation. Topics ranged from regulation to recruitment and being nimble in a hyper-dynamic sector. The session aimed to foster a discussion by investigating the question of how to “build standards awareness and foster a standards-literate workforce of the future.”

Dr. Jayne Morrow, senior advisor to the director for standards policy at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), gave an overview of implementing updated strategies while listing emerging and critical technology, including electronic transportation, cybersecurity, AI, semiconductors, and microelectronics. She described the objectives of USG NNSCET as “investment, participation, integrity, and inclusivity.”

Steve Safier, M.S. in Human Capital Management program director, introduced Dr. Alexis Wichowski, professor of professional practice and director of the M.S. in Technology Management program; and Dr. Laurie Locascio, director of NIST and undersecretary of commerce for standards and technology. 

Dr. Wichowski and Dr. Locascio discussed subjects ranging from the government’s role in semiconductor manufacturing to ChatGPT. They began by discussing the CHIPS and Science Act, a U.S. government initiative focused on revitalizing semiconductor manufacturing in the country. Dr. Locascio emphasized the importance of workforce development, anticipating the creation of 100,000 to 200,000 new jobs, as well as programs to promote diversity in the semiconductor industry. They addressed AI, with Dr. Locascio describing NIST’s research and their goal of creating guidelines and best practices for “trustworthy, safe, and secure AI.” Moreover, she emphasized how innovation arises from universities collaborating with the tech industry. 

Similarly, the program needs to remain current with advances in the sector. Dr. Wichoski explained, “One of the things that we focus on at the School of Professional Studies is preparing people for their profession, and not just as it is when they enter the program, but how it might change by the time they graduate,” she said. “Even in a one-year degree program, there have been major changes in the field of technology. We just saw the one-year anniversary of ChatGPT. Obviously, we had to make some changes to our curriculum quickly to respond to those needs.”

The final panel moderated by Dr. Roy Smith, executive director of Workcred, included experts Muhammad Ali, senior standards strategy and policy lead of HP Inc.; Dr. Diana Gelhaus, senior advisor for the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office at the Department of Defense; and Tanya Pope, assistant vice president of University supplier diversity at Columbia University. 

They discussed opportunities to empower and educate professionals, training the workforce of today and tomorrow, and cross-functional collaboration. They also touched on the responsibility of universities such as Columbia to help diversify various industries by continuing investment in programs like the Columbia HBCU Fellowship Program and the Career Catalyst Internship Program at the School of Professional Studies.

In a final moderated discussion, participants—including virtual attendees—shared their perspectives on what had been discussed and revisited the questions posed about how to successfully implement these new standards. The conversation was a robust examination of ideas around outreach, standards education, and other solutions and goals both conceptual and concrete.

In her closing remarks, Dr. Morrow expressed that the ideas around diversity, equity, and inclusion were crucial contributions to the session. “I’m walking away with a lot of really great ideas. One of the key things that resonates with me—and we need to find a way of following up on this—is the need to go where the folks are that we need to have more involved,” said Dr. Morrow. “Thank you all for your time, your wisdom, and your expertise, and for being so willing to candidly share that with us today.”


Thank you to Won Palisoul, HCM Associate Faculty, Nonprofit Management ‘16 SPS and Board Member of Columbia Alumni DC Club, who was instrumental in bringing all different parties together to make this event a success.

About the Career Design Lab

The SPS Career Design Lab empowers students to design and navigate agile, purpose-driven, and meaningful careers in a global and evolving workplace. It offers individual career coaching, employer and career development events, and job opportunities. 

About the Technology Management Program

Columbia University's Master of Science in Technology Management is designed to respond to the urgent need for strategic perspectives, critical thinking, and exceptional communication skills at all levels of the workplace and across all types of organizations.

About the Human Capital Management Program

The Columbia University M.S. in Human Capital Management program prepares graduates to be world-class HCM strategists able to address changing needs in building and motivating talented, engaged workforces in the private, public, academic, and not-for-profit sectors. The program is available part-time, full-time, on-campus, and online.