From the Executive Director’s Desk: A Focus on Employability Skills in Manufacturing

This year, FLATE partnered with the Center for Occupational Research and Development
(CORD) on a new curriculum development initiative. Necessary Skills Now: Teaching Employability Skills through Sector-specific Integrated Scenarios, the project is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program and is aimed at improving the employability skills of our nation’s technicians in the manufacturing and cyber security sectors.

Many of us still regularly hear from employers and researchers that there is an ongoing, serious lack of employability skills in today’s technical workforce. The Necessary Skills Now project is working with teams of faculty and employer subject matter experts (SMEs) to develop curriculum that integrates technical content and employability concepts within existing courses in advanced manufacturing and cyber security. The outputs of the project will provide opportunities for faculty to teach employability skills prioritized by industry within existing technical courses by using authentic workplace scenarios as the context for instruction.

The project will create self-contained instructional projects aligned to critical junctures within associate degree programs of study and will address six major categories of employability skills repeatedly mentioned in workforce surveys and research reports:

1) Teamwork

2) Problem Solving

3) Verbal Communication

4) Written Communication

5) Dependability/Work Ethic

6) Planning & Organizing.

Two weeks ago, 12 subject matter experts (six educators and six industry professionals) met with the CORD leadership team at Moraine Valley Community College (IL) to begin designing the proposed projects for advanced manufacturing. I was proud to have many Florida educators and their industry partners participating.

  • Meer Almeer (Eastern Florida SC) with Mike Ennis (Harris Corporation)
  • Lara Sharp (St. Petersburg College) with Mike Brewster (Monin)
  • Roxana Melendez (Palm Beach SC) with Terry Iverson (Iverson & Co)
  • Margi Lee (Florida Gateway College) with Richard Schwien (MVCC)
  • Dan Horine from Virginia Western CC, a close partner of our Florida team also participated with his industry partner, Josh Bittinger (Dynax)
  • Sam Knotts (Wayne CC, NC) with Chris Knotts 

The six advanced manufacturing teams left the workshop energized and ready to work. Having developed their topic areas for their authentic, integrated project at the workshop, the teams are scheduled to complete their modules by the end of 2016. After the expert curriculum development team at CORD reviews, formats and edits the six modules they will be available for pilot testing in the summer and fall of 2017, before broad dissemination.

Earlier in June, FLATE was invited to join the MSSC Advisory Council and to present at the
MSSC Executive Briefing in Atlanta, GA. Over 230 attendees participated in the 1.5 day event to hear and share best practices of implementing MSSC in high schools, community and technical colleges, adult education, workforce and military programs. I presented with Kathie Schmidt, formally from St. Lucie Schools on their early adoption of MSSC in Treasure Coast High School’s advanced manufacturing academy. Tallahassee Community College workforce team also presented to the group on how to work (or not work) with a local prison system to provide MSSC training. The FLATE team was really proud to be part of the large group from Florida engineering Technology Forum community who also attended the event to raise the awareness of credential-based education and enjoyed good and focused networking opportunities.

I now invite you to read the rest of the stories in the July edition of the FLATE Focus. Do write back with your thoughts and comments about our stories, or tweet us @MadeIn_Florida using the Hashtag of the Month #STEMTasticSummer.

Congratulations 2016 FLATE Awardees!

FLATE and the Florida Association for Career and Technical Education (FACTE) are pleased to
announce the recipients of the 2016 FLATE Awards. The Awards represent FLATE’s efforts to recognize leaders who have been at the forefront of manufacturing, workforce education and training. The Awards program has been in effect since 2007, and is one of FLATE’s flagship efforts to showcase and recognize contributions of educators and industry in advancing technician education and training on a regional and statewide level.

The 2016 FLATE Award recipients are:
  • Elizabeth Simpson, Engineering STEM Academy Lead Teacher at Greco Middle School in Tampa will receive the Distinguished Manufacturing Secondary Educator-of-the-Year Award 
  • Kevin Finan, Machining Instructor at Atlantic Technical College and Technical High School in Coconut Creek will receive the Distinguished Manufacturing Post-Secondary Educator-of-the-Year Award. 
  • Jerry Custin, President, Upper Tampa Bay Manufacturers Association will receive the FLATE Distinguished Partner Manufacturing Service Award 
Prior to the recognition, each Award recipient was interviewed by FLATE. Outlined below is a brief snapshot of the Awardees’ contributions and role in advancing manufacturing education/training in Florida.

Why do you think manufacturing education is important?

Simpson: Manufacturing education is important because it is the driving force in the American economy.

Without knowledge of manufacturing sectors and high skill jobs students will not seek many high paying and rewarding careers they are well suited for. There are multiple trade skill jobs for each job that requires a college degree and those jobs are equally as fulfilling and rewarding in the manufacturing sector.

Manufacturing education is important. As a teacher I try to introduce students to many exciting projects learned that showcases how these processes are directly related to manufacturing. A great example is robotics education. The first type of robot that students learn about in my classroom is an articulated arm hydraulic robot which is programmed using an x,y coordinate plane. This type of technology is exactly like those used in a variety of manufacturing platforms all around the world. Students learn about these real0world robots while exploring their own robot and creating programs. It is very easy to find connections between engineering topics and manufacturing because of the simple fact, without manufacturing nothing in the world would get made, it touches every aspect of our daily lives and should be taught through a course, like the one she teaches, so students learn of the multiple opportunities they have to succeed in life.

Finan: I believe technical education IS NOT vocational training. Manufacturing is a critical
component of this country’s strong economic foundation; thus, a machining classroom/lab should reflect the real work environment through theory and practice-based instruction. Training must connect directly to students’ lives and genuinely engage them to prepare for employment in their career.

My teaching style opens pathways that allow students to accomplish their manufacturing goals. The establishment of a hands-on, real-world component allows my students to understand how manufacturing provides an important, non-exportable service. As a result, a major focus of my program is to develop students’ knowledge and skills that meet industry requirements. Machinists must be accomplished to perform technical tasks. As an instructor I regularly assesses what industry requires for employment and what students need to know to be successful in the field. With the responsibility of being the only program in the county, I am dedicated to my profession and for my students to receive the best instruction possible.
I work closely with the South Florida Manufacturers Association to academically prepare students’ graduation from the District’s first Machining Apprentice program. Apprentices come from different sectors of the manufacturing industry. I ensure the apprentices learn skills that can be translated and applied into many machine types. The best outcome of all my endeavors is that my students/machinists will have higher-paying career opportunities in the future, and that my instructional approach has prepared them to achieve this goal.

Custin: There is a 'gray tsunami' coming in the manufacturing sector with the average age of

skilled workers approaching the mid to late fifties. The manufacturing sector is an important economic driver in the region, state and nation. The recruitment, training, placement and development of a modern manufacturing workforce is a critical element, perhaps the single most critical piece, in maintaining, sustaining and expanding this vital industry sector.

Our students and their parents must be introduced to the challenging and rewarding career opportunities in modern manufacturing at the earliest grades. Basic traits including work ethic, interpersonal relationships and teamwork and the excitement of applying theory to actual production are key elements to triggering the imagination and developing expectations of success. Core cognitive skills including applied mathematics, principles of electronics, basic computer operations and the ability to train other computers to achieve productive results are the major pillars of advanced manufacturing.
The point that modern manufacturing is more driven by brains than brawn, and ingenuity and innovation more than assembly line production is important in adjusting the goals and lesson plans of our educational process. Students must be excited, encouraged and empowered to develop their skills in pursuing their life and career goals. Techniques such as job shadowing, mentoring, on the job work-study, internships, externships (to train the next generation of trainers) and apprenticeships are all important to integrate into the fabric of our educational processes as is academic achievement.

As a Nominee, can you outline some of your contributions to manufacturing and/or engineering technology education and training at local, state and/or national level?
Finan: As an educator I have written and published several articles focused on machining and engineering. These include, among several others, articles in the FLATE Focus newsletter, the Sun Sentinel, a daily publication in Broward County. I have been interviewed by the Florida Department of Transportation, and coordinated several industry tours for my students to include some of the big name manufacturers like MSK Precision, Hoerbiger, Propulsion Technologies International and HEICO.

In 2015, I received the Teacher of the Year Caliber awards. I also played an integral role in several Atlantic Technical College Civic and Community Involvement projects that include: the Apprenticeship Program developed with SFMA; and securing the HAAS Technical Education Centers, Machining Talent Scholarships for ATC students. (

Simpson: At the heart of it all is my classroom, where I am an Engineering Technology teacher who teaches 6th – 8th grade at Greco Middle School. Within those grade levels students learn by doing hands-on, minds-on activities, research projects, and team work. Some of the projects include building earthquake towers, catapults, designing cities of the future, creating CO2 cars, mechanical machines, EV3 Robotics, 3D printing, and underwater robotics.

At the heart of manufacturing education is also participation in Manufacturing Day where students complete a three-day lesson about manufacturing that culminates with a tour of a company in conjunction with national manufacturing day. I have also played a leading role in partnering with FLATE to develop curriculum for Manufacturing Day/Month that is used by educators across Florida. Another important connection is the 8th graders capstone project which involves students developing innovative ideas and through manufacturing, engineering and entrepreneurship brings the idea to life and presents to a group of judges at the end of the school year. At the district level, I have developed curriculum, written course scopes and exams for a variety of middle school and high school Industrial Technology education courses that are taught in Hillsborough County. For many years I have also served as the lead robotics teacher for the FLATE robotics summer camps at HCC teaching EV3 Lego Robotics to middle school students.

Custin: As a leader the local manufacturing community, I have for over ten years been working to identify key issues and challenges faced by small manufacturers and identifying the resources needed to effect change. Over time I have built a relationship base within the regional manufacturing sector as well as the broad array of public sector agencies and organizations that can impact change within the sector. Eventually this culminated in the formation of the Upper Tampa Bay Manufacturers Association as a committee of the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and its eventual formation as a separate not-for profit corporation which currently serves over 450 subscribers with a monthly newsletter as well as an educational meeting.

Over the years I have built strategic partnerships with regional educational, economic development, and workforce development community. I have also established inroads among local and state elected officials to develop a common vision and goal for regional manufacturing, as well as changing the underlying delivery systems critical to advancing that effort. I serve on various advisory boards including St. Petersburg College, Hillsborough Community College, the Hillsborough Manufacturing Alliance and the American Skills Initiative program. The Upper Tampa Bay Manufacturing Association has also gained statewide recognition and early this year hosted Governor Scott at his request to meet with a handful of his Board of Directors prior to the 2016 Legislative Session. I also helped organize the Pinellas Chambers Business Delegation to lobby for various initiatives including successfully eliminating the sales tax on manufacturing equipment purchases.

FLATE received a record number of nominations this year. Award winners are selected by the FLATE Industrial Advisory Committee members following a review process, and using a standard rubric to guide their selection from the information that nominees submit. Simpson, Finan and Custin were selected from a pool of distinguished nominees who have each made a mark in manufacturing. We recognize the contributions of each of the nominees and would like to congratulate the winners and the nominees for their role in advancing manufacturing education and training in Florida.

For more information about FLATE Awards visit FACTE’S award page.For more information visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at

#FLMfgMonth16: Help MAKE FLORIDA #1 Again!

It’s that time of the year when we start focusing our efforts on Manufacturing Day. We invite
each of you to join forces with FLATE to promote and celebrate Manufacturing Day (MFG DAY)/Month 2016! Last year FLATE and its network of statewide partners worked cohesively to coordinate and organize industry tours for hundreds of middle and high school students and teachers. This strategic partnership between FLATE and its partners, enabled students and educators across Florida to visit local manufacturing operations on Manufacturing Day and throughout the entire month of October. It also helped place Florida at the #1 spot in the nation for hosting total number of tours and events for the 4th consecutive year!

FLATE recognizes the hard work and dedication of all its statewide partners. Manufacturers, Manufacturers Associations, school districts, professional organizations, and many individuals contributed to the local and regional events at almost 150 manufacturing facilities in 50 counties to show students, teachers, counselors, and public officials that high-skilled, high-wage jobs are available in Florida. This year we’re hoping to do even better and we need your continued support and participation to make that a reality.

Here are a few of the ways you can participate and be part of this national phenomenon:

  • Host “Made in Florida” student tours and provide student lunch 
  • Survey student attendees (FLATE will provide surveys and summarize all state data)
  • Host an Open House or other open event for the community
  • Get a local and/or regional proclamation for MFG DAY and/or MFG Month
  • Donate to MFG DAY student tours and tee-shirts
  • Schools/Districts can provide transportation, teacher substitutes and chaperones for students
  • Publicize/promote regional events
  • Use manufacturing lesson plans in classrooms

FLATE will help coordinate “Made in Florida” manufacturing tours for students taking place across the state on Friday, October 7th. Although we recommend that a company try to host tours on October 7, any tours taking place during October are considered Manufacturing Day Industry tours. In addition, FLATE will work with regional “MFG DAY teams”, helping to connect schools with companies, supporting media publicity, designing and delivering student tee-shirts and student surveys. We will also assess the impact of tours on students regionally, and statewide.

Student Incentives
Having lunch (e.g., pizza) and tee-shirts for the students gives them an extra incentive to turn
in the necessary school tour paperwork. Lunch provides time for the students to interact directly with manufacturing employees after a tour. The shirts are a tangible and long-time reminder for the students and their families of the significance of manufacturing in Florida. And, it all helps put the “fun” in manufacturing!

Visit our webpage on the “Made in Florida” site for more MFG DAY in FLORIDA information. We will be posting resources, tour hosts, events, proclamations, participating companies and organizations. Please share this information your organizational membership, colleagues and anyone who may be interested. We look forward to working with our statewide partners (existing and new), and thank you for your support as we prepare to celebrate the 5th annual Manufacturing Day and Month this October. Let’s make this year our best ever!!!

For more information on MFG Day and how you can get involved visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE at