Detailed information regarding the work in which technicians and operators are engaged has not been well documented in the past. In lieu of this lack of information, educators and policy makers have had little choice but to rely on common sense notions that often have been misleading. For example, the educational and policy literature routinely portrays technicians as "junior professionals:' whose work requires a less rigorous, more applied version of the formal knowledge that engineers and scientists obtain. Many who work in this field entered simply because circumstances prevented them from completing the education required of a scientist or engineer. Others entered the CPI as part of maintenance and labor forces and "worked their way up" without any formal preparation. Few actually completed educational programs designed for technicians or operators before entering the workforce. Information provided to this project by a large number of technicians and operators confirms the lack of preparation of most people for the actual work being done.
Both managers and the workers agree that if the CPI is to remain competitive, the role of all workers must be better understood so that entry-level skills can be developed appropriately. If the teams required to operate and maintain a plant or to conduct projects and experiments in a laboratory are to be fully effective, the very important contributions to be made by technicians and operators must be recognized as clearly separate from, and of comparable importance to, that of the scientist and engineer.