Global economists have cited advanced manufacturing (AM) as one of the fastest growing, dynamic, and economically instrumental industry sectors in the world. In response, many community colleges and undergraduate-serving institutions have established technician education programs to prepare future workers to support AM vitality and innovation. However, in the rush to couple market and training demands, stakeholders have not agreed upon a definition of the field. Without a central notion of AM, the competencies and professional identities of AM workers are likewise unclear. In an effort to address this consensus gap, we undertook an extensive systematic review of AM definitions to chart of sector’s topography, in an effort to understand AM’s breadth and depth. The goals of this study were to: 1) define AM as perceived by policymakers and 2) identify important concepts and contextual factors that comprise and shape our understanding of AM. In this study, we used systematic policy and literature review approach to analyze canonical and research-based publications pertaining to AM’s origins, components, and operational definitions. We classified, compared, and synthesized definitions of AM depending by stakeholder, for example, professional organizations, government agencies, or educational program accreditors. Among our notable findings is that in the eyes of policymakers, manufacturers are advanced not because they make certain products, but because they have adopted sophisticated business models and production techniques. Advanced manufacturers typically use a combination of three factors to remain competitive: “advanced knowledge,” “advanced processes,” and “advanced business models.” This study is both timely and important because in a dynamic field such as AM, educators and industry leaders must work together to meet workforce needs. Clear understanding of AM can inform competency models, bodies of knowledge, and empirical research that documents school-to-career pathways. Both our findings and our methods may shed light on the nature of related technical fields and offer industry and education strategies to ensure their alignment.
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