Sponsor Deadline
Posted: 6/7/2024

Experiential Learning for Emerging and Novel Technologies (ExLENT)

Through this new initiative, the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) and the newly established Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) seek to support experiential learning opportunities for individuals from diverse professional and educational backgrounds that will increase access to, and interest in, career pathways in emerging technology fields (e.g., advanced manufacturing, advanced wireless, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, quantum information science, semiconductors, and microelectronics). As NSF seeks to support the development of technologies in such fields, similar support will be needed to foster and grow a diverse science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce to contribute to such innovation. Large scale societal challenges like climate change and clean energy also require a STEM workforce that brings varied perspectives and expertise to further accelerate the translation of science and engineering discoveries into large-scale solutions. Moreover, as current and new emerging technologies continue to evolve, unforeseen issues around security, safety and privacy will impact the preparation of the workforce. Emerging technologies are also dynamic and rapidly changing, with career entry and advancement often requiring "learning-by-doing" experience, even for those with some STEM education. Therefore, NSF recognizes that a competitive emerging technology workforce must include individuals from traditional and nontraditional education pathways as well as those individuals who may have “stopped” out of traditional educational pathways.

The ExLENT program will support inclusive experiential learning opportunities designed to provide cohorts of diverse learners with the crucial skills needed to succeed in emerging technology fields and prepare them to enter the workforce ready to solve our Nation’s most pressing scientific and societal challenges. Furthermore, the ExLENT program will directly support NSF’s priority to build a diverse workforce1 in emerging technologies to assure the Nation’s competitiveness in STEM.  

Key goals of the program are to (1) expand access to career-enhancing experiential learning opportunities for a broader, more diverse population, including adult learners interested in re-skilling and/or upskilling (e.g., those who face or who have faced significant barriers to accessing a formal STEM education); (2) promote cross sector partnerships between organizations in emerging technology fields and those with expertise in workforce development; and (3) develop a workforce aligned with regional economies based on emerging technologies across the Nation, in alignment with the mission of the TIP Directorate.  

Deadline: Sep. 12, 2024


Areas of Interest

Track: Pivots

The Pivots track aims to attract individuals not currently enrolled in post-secondary educational programs, and have acquired useful skills such as time management, communication, and teamwork in non-emerging technology careers. This may include participants who require upskilling to work in emerging technology fields. Participants benefitting from this track should be highly motivated to change their career trajectory into an emerging technology field. Proposed projects should provide participants with experiential learning opportunities that build skills and competencies necessary for current professionals to pivot into careers in emerging technology fields.

Track: Beginnings

The Beginnings track aims to provide individuals possessing some existing STEM competencies (e.g., those with stackable certificates in STEM or those enrolled in associate’s degree programs, etc.) with experiential learning opportunities that deepen knowledge and skills in emerging technology fields. Proposed projects should enable participants to pursue or advance their career in an emerging technology field.

Track: Explorations

The Explorations track aims to provide individuals with limited or no specialized STEM education the inspiration and opportunity to explore the potential of a career path in emerging technology fields. Proposed projects in this track should provide participants with experiential learning opportunities that build interest, motivation, and knowledge in emerging technology fields and identify pathways to careers in these areas. Proposals submitted to this track should focus on a wide range of participants from diverse backgrounds and may include those enrolled in traditional education pathways (e.g., secondary school, college, and/or military). Alternatively, a proposal might focus on participants who are not enrolled in a traditional educational pathway (i.e., self-learners, members of incubators) who are inclined to explore hands-on learning and development opportunities in emerging technology fields.

Amount Description

Estimated Number of Awards: 25 to 35

ExLENT awards are expected to be up to three (3) years in duration with a total budget up to $1,000,000.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $30,000,000

Estimated program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the availability of funds.