Industry Day for Local Students Offers a Paradigm Shift in Technical Education

FLATE recently partnered with CTEF (Career Technical Education Foundation) in Palm Harbor, FL, to orchestrate a two-day “Industry Day” for high school students in the greater Tampa bay area. As a result of this effort, 125 students from the engineering academies at River Ridge High School in Pasco County, and 150 students from East Lake High School in Pinellas County toured 10 local high-tech manufacturing facilities. These fun-filled, yet educationally engaging tours showcased the importance of industry-aligned education, the tools required to meet these educational requirements, and the skills needed to secure sustainable career goals.

Students from River Ridge High School tour
Southern Manufacturing Technologies in
Industry hosts Honeywell, Con Med, Pall Aeropower, Nielsen Media Research, Micron Pharma Works, Coastal Caisson, Valpak, Jabil Circuit, Southern Manufacturing Technologies and Mitre Corporation opened their facilities to give students a detailed overview of high-tech operations. They also set up special employee presentations that provided an overview of educational pathways needed to secure available high-tech careers. As part of the experience, FLATE provided students with information on statewide educational and career opportunities in modern manufacturing, and advised students to take advantage of the resources posted on the “Made in Florida” website. The Center also helped cover a portion of the transportation cost for eight buses to transport students to and from and between manufacturing facilities.

Indeed, industry day was marked by a comprehensive effort to generate interest in engineering, manufacturing, technical education, and to integrate theoretical as well as practical experience into the educational experience. The initiative represented an extension of FLATE’s “Made in Florida” outreach campaign designed to give students a real-world view of high-tech careers/educational pathways, and an opportunity to connect classroom-based knowledge to real-world innovation and application. Dave Gula, FLATE’s outreach manager said the tours underlined the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and its relevance/applicability outside the classroom, and gave students an in-depth overview of high-tech careers, exploration of post-secondary educational requirements to qualify for these jobs.

Prior to the tour, students researched local high-tech companies, and explored the kinds of high-tech jobs they offered. Students were also required to document and report their experience at the conclusion of the tour. A post visit survey conducted by FLATE also showed more than half the students agreed the tour helped them understand the use of math, science and technology in industry. The survey indicated considering a career in manufacturing, or related technical industries. As pointed out by Gula “striking a connection between theoretical and practical knowledge enhances students’ interest and helps develop a desire to apply their knowledge towards innovation.”

The “Made in Florida” industry tours, for students grades 7 through 12, are designed to stimulate student interest in modern manufacturing careers, and to encourage enrollment in the technology programs throughout the state. Since the implementation of the tours in 2004, nearly 3000 students from 151 schools (middle, high school and technical) in the greater Tampa Bay area have toured approximately 50 local high-tech manufacturing facilities. From past surveys conducted after the tour, approximately 78% of the students either ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ the tours were helpful to their understanding of jobs and career options. Eighty-eight percent also ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ they wanted a high-skill, high-wage position.

For information on FLATE and the Made in Florida outreach campaign, contact Dave Gula at, or visit and