The quantum industry is advancing rapidly and need for qualified talent at all levels is growing; while efforts are underway to prepare students at the undergraduate, masters, and PhD level for quantum engineering and scientist roles, there are few associate degree and certificate-level programs geared toward training technicians.
Quantum technicians fill multiple critical functions, including system and component fabrication, assembly, characterization, testing, operation, and maintenance; demand is expected to grow as the industry continues its rapid development, and there is aclear need to start developing this workforce now.
A combination of domain knowledge (e.g., experience with vacuum, cryogenic, and optical systems), programming, and soft skills are commonly required; while most of these skills are not unique to the quantum industry, there are several that, in combination, are critical and distinguishing to quantum.
Current hiring approaches often focus on recruiting candidates out of adjacent fields that have shared skill requirements (e.g., microelectronics, semiconductor, photonics) and rely on in-house shadowing programs to train new hires; however, a more coordinated approach specifically geared toward filling the quantum workforce pipeline could increase productivity and progress, especially in small companies.
Several gaps have been identified as impediments to building a quantum technician workforce, including funding for education, experimental asset access, and public awareness.
QED-C recommends the following actions to address the identified challenges:
- Create a framework to define the types of quantum technician roles and invest in marketing to build awareness about career trajectories
- Map existing training programs versus the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that are defined as being critical for the quantum technician role
- Build local partnerships between higher education, industry, and national labs
- Establish an accreditation program for quantum technology curricula
- Expand teacher training programs across disciplines
- Increase access to assets to enable hands-on-learning opportunities
- Expand co-op and internship opportunities to non-graduate degree students, with greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Allocate more funding for institutions focused on training and education rather than research requirements