From the Executive Director's Desk: Defining Career Pathways for the 21st Century Workforce

For the past several years, there has been increased emphasis on career pathways by the Federal Department of Labor,
including the Career Pathways Initiative, the Workforce Innovation Fund Grant, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grants programs (TAACCCT), and most recently the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  The WIOA legislation promotes career pathways as the primary strategies for workforce development design and implementation for most of the agencies they oversee.

How are career pathways defined in this new 21st century environment?  Built on a couple of decades of experience across the country, WIOA defines a career pathway as having these characteristics:
  • Alignment with the skill needs of industries in the economy of the state or regional economy involved 
  • Prepares an individual to be successful in any of the full range of secondary or postsecondary education options, including apprenticeships
  • Includes counseling to support an individual in achieving the individual’s education and career goals
  • Includes, as appropriate, education offered concurrently with the and in the same context as workforce preparation activities and training for a specific occupation or occupational cluster
  • Organizes education, training, and other services to meet the particular needs of an individual in a manner that accelerates the educational and career advancement of the individual to the extent practicable
  • Enables an individual to attain a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent and at least 1 recognized post-secondary credential
  • Helps an individual enter or advance within a specific occupation or occupational cluster
In early March, I was invited to participate in reviewing the draft of an update to the current 2011 version of the Career Pathway Toolkit.  The “Career Pathway Champions” review team was a group of 20 professionals from various agencies around the country who are working closely with career pathways and anxious to learn the impact of WIOA on their work.

The new version of the Toolkit is more comprehensive and will provide guidance and resources for all service provider organizations that participate in any way and/or related activities. The “Champions” team worked in small groups to review the draft Toolkit and provided a number of suggestions for improvement and increased usability for the wide audience that the Toolkit would have. The small working Champion teams also unanimously encouraged alignment of metrics among the various workforce agencies and educational institutions.  The impact of the new career pathway system will be difficult to determine unless some common metrics are defined. This message was made crystal clear to the leadership of the Departments of Labor and Education, who joined the meeting virtually for the last two hour session of the workshop. Implementing this suggestion implies significant challenges in data infrastructures, but offers the hope of simplifying both work required of agencies and processes of the users of the systems. In the long term, data and metric alignment will be able to provide solid and strong evidence of successful implementation.

Stay tuned for the fully downloadable 2015 Career Pathway Toolkit this summer on DOL’s ETA website. The work
is organized under these Six Key Elements of Career Pathways, which are strategies to guide local and regional implementation. Many of you will recognize some of these strategies to:
  • Build cross-agency partnerships and clarify roles
  • Identify industry sectors and engage employers
  • Design education and training programs
  • Identify funding needs and sources
  • Align policies and programs
  • Measure systems change and performance

In developing our Florida Engineering Technology Career Pathway aligned with the A.S. Engineering Technology degree, FLATE and its partners have used all of the strategies listed above. We have built a comprehensive framework that allows someone to enter and exit at a number of places along the pathway to the A.S. degree, and ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology. There are opportunities to articulate from secondary and post-secondary education as well as workforce training. It’s aligned to industry credentials which also provides for accelerated completion. We look forward to the opportunities that WIOA will offer to increase usage of our ET pathways in Florida to even better support our manufacturers. For more information visit  

…And now I invite you to read the rest of the stories in this edition of the FLATE Focus. Spring is dotted with many webinars so be sure to stock up your professional development toolkit! Manufacturing Day 2015 may appear distant, but it is already in our planning horizon. In keeping with our ongoing efforts to promote this national event, we have several stories one outlining some valuable comments and feedback we received from last year’s event. FLATE and its statewide partners, you will note, have been highly successful in engaging and implementing a statewide strategy that has left a national footprint, and we invite each of you to participate in whatever capacity you can for MFG Day 2015. In this edition we also bring you a story about our partnership with the Florida Energy Systems Consortium and our role in the Smart Grid Technician Education program. Our ongoing outreach effort to educate students about STEM continues, so does our attempt to highlight and remain connected with past FLATE awardees. We also have a new sTEm puzzle that is sure to challenge your. Do post your answers on, or jot it down below the blog post itself. If your schedule permits mark your calendar to attend the  2015 HI-TECH conference in Portland later this summer.

2015 Manufacturing Day Planning Webinar. Join the Movement!

FLATE-the Florida-based, National Science Foundation Regional Center of Excellence in Manufacturing, is
 taking the lead in organizing 2015 Manufacturing Day events. Given the Center’s successful launch of Manufacturing Day strategy for the state of Florida for the past two years, FLATE is sponsoring a webinar for regionally coordinated Manufacturing Day events for 2015. The hour-long webinar hosted by MATEC (Maricopa Advanced Technology Education Center) is geared to share not only FLATE’s experiences, lessons learned and how-to’s, but also to showcase other collaborative efforts around the country including the ‘Tour of Manufacturing in Minnesota,’ which represents another statewide Manufacturing Day effort led by the 360 Center of Excellence in Bemidji, MN.

Registration & Call-In Info

Statewide industry hosts, school districts, regional manufacturers associations, or anyone interested in hosting, participating, or learning about Manufacturing Day and/or statewide efforts are  invited to join FLATE’s general planning session webinar on April 17 from noon to 1 p.m. EST by registering online at:

The goal of the 2105 Manufacturing Day Planning Webinar is to promote participation by explaining the processes of building collaborations and effective partnerships. During the webinar, FLATE and its guests will share best practices for establishing industry-school partnerships, share ideas for seeking support form government agencies to provide increased attention to manufacturers in respective communities, and resources for providing impactful outreach to students. Webinar attendees will also get in-depth perspectives from national Manufacturing Day organizers, leaders and supporters.

FLATE’s ongoing efforts are focused on leveraging the promotion of the national organization and its efforts, and amplify its work nationwide using best practices implemented in Florida, and create a common platform to encourage increased participation in Manufacturing Day 2015. Highlights of discussions will include:
  • An overview of the 2014 Florida and Minnesota processes for national manufacturing day
  • Sharing common experiences and best practices from industry hosts and participants from previous manufacturing day
  • Provide resources that are available for anyone interested in manufacturing day tours.
  • Chart a timeline for 2015 Manufacturing Day events
Manufacturing Day 2015 is targeted to help build in-roads between manufacturers, RMAs, educators and students, and establish a multi-pronged strategy to change perceptions about manufacturing on a
national level, stir interest and engagement in high-tech manufacturing education/careers. Through cohesive partnerships with industry, educators, regional manufacturers associations and the community at large, FLATE hopes to drive a spike in the number of “Made in Florida” industry tours for students and once again position Florida as the national leader in hosting manufacturing day events and industry tours.  FLATE also hopes to inspire others to ’Join the Movement,’ and engage manufacturing stakeholders across the country to celebrate Manufacturing Day.

To register visit For more information on regionally coordinated Manufacturing Day 2015, visit the Made In Florida page at where FLATE will post information as it unfolds on MFG Day 2015. You can also email Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at and Desh Bagley, FLATE outreach manager at 

Student Feedback from Manufacturing Day 2014 Shows Huge Impact

Since 2005, the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence (FLATE) has facilitated close to 400 tours to 234 high-tech, manufacturing facilities throughout Florida, for 
over 10,000 students, and almost 1,000 educators and parents. These tours provide students, teachers and parents with the opportunity to have their eyes opened to the exciting and lucrative world of manufacturing and the many, varied careers the industry offers. One of FLATE’s goals has been to provide students with exposure to real Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) workplaces, primarily those in manufacturing. Students are surveyed after the tours so data can be gathered to discover what the students experienced from their own point of view and to help streamline and improve tours in the future.

Backgrounder on MFG Day
Manufacturing Day 2014 was the second annual year FLATE coordinated statewide events on Manufacturing Day/Month. FLATE worked with partners and collaborators around the state including a number of Manufacturers Associations, Colleges, Workforce Organizations and Florida 
TRADE consortium. It was a fantastic success and did much to place Florida firmly on the national manufacturing map. More than 3,000 students from 39 counties toured 88 facilities across Florida.

The inaugural National Manufacturing Day was held on Oct. 3, 2012, and has continued to grow every year. The event is supported by a group of industry sponsors and co-producers and strives to improve the manufacturing industry’s image problem while at the same giving manufacturers a chance come together and voice concerns associated with training and recruiting future industry employees.

Many still believe that manufacturing consists of crowds of workers counting widgets in dirty, run-down factories for little compensation – a far cry from current reality! As a result many parents and schools do not encourage their kids/students to pursue manufacturing careers, resulting in a complete lack of understanding, awareness and interest among the next generation of workers. All this at a time when the shortage of skilled workers continues to increase rapidly and the need is greater than ever. People don’t realize that careers in the world of modern manufacturing provide opportunities to do life-saving work, put men on Mars, and are high-tech, highly-skilled, rewarding and lucrative.

By giving manufacturers the opportunity to show tour participants first-hand, what the real-life world of modern manufacturing looks like, these widely-held misconceptions about manufacturing can be eliminated in a highly effective way. Students are also exposed to some of the challenging and exciting careers available in the manufacturing industry and manufacturers are able to address the prevalent skilled labor shortage that the industry and their companies are facing.

FLATE’s MFG Day Strategy in Florida & Impact
FLATE has developed and implemented processes for organizing and deploying effective student tours of manufacturing facilities and determining the impact they have on students and educators. Data collected includes anecdotal evidence based on feedback from students, industry hosts, staff, and teachers as well as aggregated survey results from eight years of student tours of manufacturing facilities. Survey data collected from 2014 Manufacturing Day student tour surveys was analyzed and is illustrated in the table below.

Pre & Post Tour Feedback/Analysis
Before going on the tour, 46% of the students had never considered a career in manufacturing, 60% said that the tour made them think about careers in advanced manufacturing and student data indicated that over half (55%) were now considering a career in the field. Eighty-one percent of students reported that they learned about technologies used in today’s advanced manufacturing industries and 74% of students felt that the tour help them understand how STEM subjects they learn in school are put to work in advanced manufacturing industries. These are significant findings and provide strong evidence to reinforce that fact that manufacturing facility tours are an invaluable and significant tool to help dispel misconceptions about what today’s manufacturing industry really looks like, and the exciting, high tech and high wage careers it offers.

In addition, this year’s analysis was conducted with an added emphasis on parsing out “themes” of student feedback to the question: “What did you like most about the tour?” These are shown in the table below along with some examples of comments in the different theme categories.

This student feedback is hugely powerful and details the great depth of impact these tours had on the participants. Students took the time to give detailed feedback about what the tour experience meant to them. Findings overwhelmingly support the importance of exposure to real-world work environments
and real people doing real jobs for the next generation manufacturing workforce. Educators were also significantly impacted and articulated that the tours gave them a deeper insight into today’s manufacturing industry and the careers it has to offer their students, as well as helping them to integrate STEM throughout their curriculum materials. Manufacturers expressed that industry tours provided a highly effective way to aid in educating and/or creating a talent pool for a future workforce. They expressed that the tours as served as a conduit between manufacturers and local educational facilities opening a pathway for partnership which “could lead to future internships and employees”.

Clearly tour experiences are a “win-win-win” for students, educators and manufacturers and are invaluable in contributing to the goal of creating a new and positive image of modern manufacturing – one based in reality rather than widely-held stereotypes. It is hugely gratifying to read students’ feedback relating to how the tour impacted their view of manufacturing, “It was very informative on manufacturing it made me consider a career in manufacturing”, “The factory was clean and looked like others can be a good opportunity to work with a good company”, “I liked how we were actually allowed to walk around and see how a lot of the machines work. I also thought how we were allowed to see how much they actually earn, because in all honesty, people don’t really think they make much and this put a whole new perspective in my eyes”.

Tours should be central components of secondary and post-secondary manufacturing and technical courses and
programs. Educators can easily integrate tour experiences into their classroom curriculum with a little assistance from the industry tour host. Tours can be tailored so that they align well with student learning objectives. They effectively aid educators in the integration of technology and engineering into mainstream and STEM course objectives. They provide students with the opportunity to see real-life examples of what they have learned in the classroom translated into actual practice in a manufacturing facility (Survey data from 2014 Manufacturing Day tours indicated that 74% of students felt that the tour help them understand how STEM subjects they learn in school are put to work in advanced manufacturing industries). Tours can “spark” students’ interest and lead to them considering a future career in the manufacturing industry - student feedback reinforces this: I liked that I got to learn more about manufacturing and machinery. It taught me about new opportunities”, “I would like to apply here when I turn 18”, “The show of the company was very cool and I might want to intern here”.

Planning for this year’s Manufacturing Day is already well underway. FLATE is working hard to grow participation as well as increasing the impact of tour experiences by working closely with teachers pre-tour to make sure they are comfortable using the pre-tour lesson plans and associated activities provided to them. Teachers and parents accompanying students on tours will also be surveyed as these individuals are instrumental in providing accurate and up-to-date information about what the manufacturing industry has to offer their students/children. To extend the scope and deepen the impact of the tour experience, teachers will be encouraged to have a debriefing discussion with their students post-tour, as well as utilizing follow-up lesson plans and activities. Additional efforts will focus on adding new tour locations and increasing student participation through regional organizational partnerships.

As the critical need for a skilled manufacturing workforce increases at an alarming rate, it is essential that educators, parents and manufacturers work together as one, to raise awareness and to promote advanced manufacturing and the wealth of incredible careers it has to offer. Manufacturing industry tours are a proven and highly effective tool for achieving these goals. For more information on MFG Day 2015 visit and .