From the Executive Director's Desk: Deeper Dive into the Manufacturing Ecosystem

Last month FLATE Focus introduced the idea of a manufacturing ecosystem particularly focused on workforce elements of the ecosystem. Successful manufacturing workforce development systems require detailed attention to components of the “talent pool pathway” with different ecosystem entities focusing on select components from different perspectives and with varying intensity depending on their mission. As a reminder (but not a test), the four components, or attributes, are: work-based learning; internships and apprenticeships; skill certification; and talent pipeline development.

FLATE has also identified four organizations that have overlapping missions around the development of Florida's manufacturing workforce. These are: the Florida University System, the Florida College System, the Workforce Agency (CareerSource Florida) and FloridaMakes, the Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Service (MEP). This month the ecosystem connection points between FLATE and the University of Florida Innovation Station Sarasota are reviewed.

The University of Florida’s Innovation Station in Sarasota has a focused economic development mission for the Sarasota bay region in Florida. Their strategy is to unite economic development efforts with the State College of Florida and the University of Florida to optimize technology and manufacturing investment in the region. One platform of that strategy is to increase the number of engineers that are from and come back to the greater Sarasota area to enhance the local business and industry. This increase in the manufacturing talent pool also includes the development of the required support technical workforce.

An important goal for the Innovation Station is to strengthen the presence of engineering education in the State College of Florida (SCF). Their approach is to establish a strong physical presence on the SCF Venice campus. This includes a standalone building that provides advising and engineering career promotion events. The program will identify students for a cohort and then provide mentoring, industry interactions, and cohort study and social opportunities. Cohort members are also simultaneously enrolled in the University Of Florida Engineering College with all of the privileges and academic responsibilities of any engineering student enrolled on the UF campus in Gainesville.

The Innovation Station attributes presented above represent the "what's in it for me" element of their organization. The key to a strong ecosystem is to have each partner organization keep their "for me" components and then add important "what's in it for us" elements. It is not necessary for every organization in the ecosystem to have "in it for us" for every ecosystem partner, but collectively all of the "in it for me" components advance the goals of that ecosystem.

The illustration below 
demonstrates this concept. It highlights FLATE and Innovation Station "in it for me" qualities. However, the important idea that projects from the graphic is the overlapping qualities. In this case FLATE and the Innovation Station will both benefit if we share resources that address many project activities. This list includes: new apprenticeship initiatives, industry recognized credentials (MSSC for example); high school graduates directed toward technical careers; and various K-12 STEM outreach initiatives.

The graphic highlights only some of the mutual interactions. It suggests that the State College Partnerships connection is toward FloridaMakes. This is the case since the SCF Venice campus is also the home of the SCF A.S. Engineering Technology degree program. The Innovation Station engineering career pathway activity complements the manufacturing career options and pathways of the A.S. ET degree as well. One exciting part of this FLATE/Innovation Station connection is the Innovation Station intention to expand the interactions between engineering and technology students and the technology program’s extensive "hands-on" laboratory space. This activity is a specific example of a high benefit partnerships activity that easily fits within the Manufacturing Ecosystem model. 

For more information on UF's Innovation Station, please visit their webpage here.

I now invite you to read the rest of the articles in the March edition of the FLATE Focus. We have a special story highlighting MSSC CPT Training in Florida, and several new additions to our "Announcements" sidebar. Please send us your thoughts by commenting below each blog post, or connect with us on our social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

MSSC CPT Certification on the rise in Florida

The Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) is an industry-led training, assessment and certification system focused on the core skills and knowledge needed by the nation’s top production workers. The nationwide MSSC System offers entry-level and incumbent workers the opportunity to demonstrate that they have acquired the skills needed in the technology-intensive jobs of today. MSSC offers two certifications: a Certified Production Technician (CPT) and a Certified Logistics Technician (CLT).

The CPT Certification addresses the core technical capabilities of higher skilled production workers in all areas of manufacturing. MSSC awards a full Certified Production Technician (CPT) Certification to individuals who pass all four course modules: Safety; Quality Practices & Measurement; Manufacturing Processes & Production and Maintenance Awareness. A CPT Certification equates to 15 college credits. 

In Florida, community organizations are working with economic development organizations to provide MSSC CPT Training for their clients. Given the statewide need for skilled manufacturing workers, many of the participants of these programs are securing jobs in manufacturing facilities and are now part of the Florida's manufacturing workforce.

Recently, the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast (EDC) has aligned with eight local churches to celebrate recipients of MSSC CPT Certifications. The EDC and a local group called The Pastor’s Community Alliance had nine graduates with CPT and IPC soldering certification. Six of the nine received jobs at a local manufacturing company. 

Also in Florida, The Centre for Women located in Hillsborough County is offering a CPT Training course for women who wish to become CPT Certified. The course is intensive and lasts three weeks. The class is hosted by the Women’s Centre in partnership with Hillsborough Community College, which identifies companies that will hire the women after they earn their certification. The program is part of an initiative by the Manufacturing Alliance of Hillsborough County, with the help of local manufacturers, to build a pipeline of much-needed talent in the area’s manufacturing sector.

According to Glenn Goonis, instructor from the Women’s Centre CPT Training course, “the program was offered at the Centre to provide a nationally recognized certification in manufacturing to a group who were looking to upskill and reenter the workforce in a sector that offers far better wages and benefits than the average sectors in our great state. The course was paid for through a partnership with the Manufacturing Alliance of Hillsborough County."

Goonis also shared some stories about notable students: “Two of our learners, who were Puerto Rican and, as non-native English speakers faced some language challenges -- 
Photo by Julie Branaman
had extensive manufacturing experience from employers in Minnesota, and their colorful stories brought to life some of the concepts we were studying. They were currently working at a local hotel as valets and in the kitchen, and brought in food every morning to share with the class. They also worked nights and weekends to make up for the time they were spending in class. Their work ethic and sense of community set the curve for the class. One of our learners was new to the United States. Originally from Nigeria, she was an attorney in her home country. Unable to find work in her field here, she was hoping to start a new career working in manufacturing. Her stories of Nigeria and the challenges there were awe-inspiring.”

To read more information about the EDC and Pastor’s Alliance partnership, please click here. To read more information on the Women’s Centre and the CPT courses offered there, please click here. For more information about MSSC and how to become certified, please visit their certification webpage, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director for FLATE, at Visit FLATE’s webpage regarding MSSC Training here.

Success at Florida's first Industry and Academic Forum about Supply Chain Automation (Mechatronics)

FLATE and the National Center for Supply Chain Automation (SCA) joined efforts to have the first industry and academic forum about supply chain automation (mechatronics) in Florida. The event took place in the brand new Walmart Fulfillment Center in Davenport, FL. The objectives of the forums included: an introduction from both centers, how to focus on Educational resources, how to facilitate Industry/Academic Connections, clarifying Supply Chain Management vs Supply Chain Technician (SCT), comparing and contrasting Career Awareness vs. Career Pathway, providing SCT Occupational Context- SCT Industry Needs meet Academic Solutions, and sharing Best Practices/Solutions (for example, internships). Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE, presented the ins and outs of the statewide Engineering Technology A.S. degree, home of mechatronics education in Florida, and offered at many state and community colleges across the state. Florida colleges that offer A.S. ET participated and met new supply chain professionals from their regions to partner with. After the presentations, the group was given an "insiders" tour of Walmart's 2.2 million square foot e-commerce facility in Davenport, FL.  

Highlights of topics discussed included the popularity of e-commerce, automation & technician demand trends, building ecosystems- SCT workforce development, and describing engineering technology & supply chain educational programs in Florida. After the industry and academic forum, participants traveled back to Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Brandon campus for a lab tour. HCC Engineering Technology faculty conducted the tour of the facility and lab area. Participants were engaged and asked questions relating to equipment and ET program.

Two planning partners of the forum, Elaine Gaertner, Education Consultant for Supply Chain Technology Education, and Steve Harrington, industry liaison for National Center for SCA, thanked FLATE for partnership and state that the forum  “was probably our most successful yet.” 

For more information about The National Center for Supply Chain Automation, please view their webpage by clicking here. To view the SCA Power Point presentations, please click here.

For more information about FLATE, please visit or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE, at