Outreach Themes Emerge at the Annual NVC Meeting

As a direct response to FLATE's 2011 Stakeholder Survey, and inspired by Gov. Rick Scott's comments and presentation at the 8th Annual Manufacturing Summit & Marketplace in 2011, FLATE initiated its "Manufacturing Year of Awareness" campaign. FLATE "kicked off" this effort in January 2012 during its 8th annual NSF National Visiting Committee meeting hosted this year by Harris Corporation in Melbourne, Florida. Through it all Dr. Marilyn Barger, PI & Executive Director of FLATE says "we hope these efforts continue to strengthen Florida's leadership in the manufacturing renaissance."

The workshop started with presentations by Art Hoelke, vice president and general manager at Knight’s Armament in Titusville, and Terry Iverson, president & CEO of Iverson & Company in Des Plaines, IL, who shared their outreach activity experiences. During the meeting attendees were asked to participate in an outreach activity focusing on manufacturing. Several common themes emerged, providing guidance for improving and designing future outreach efforts to increase the pipeline of students entering manufacturing-related careers.

Community Involvement and Support
Overwhelmingly attendees stressed the importance of having all stakeholders engaged and involved in outreach activities. The stakeholder list includes (but, is not limited to) manufacturers, students, teachers, education administrators, workforce and economic development boards, parents.

Industry Image
Unfortunately, the image/perception associated with the manufacturing industry is still not a positive one. Attendees agreed that educating and informing students (and parents) about the world of modern manufacturing and the opportunities available in the field is essential.

Manufacturing Support (especially local support) is of paramount importance, and partnerships should be fostered between all stakeholders (community, schools, manufacturers).

High School Focus
High school students emerged as the group that should be targeted most aggressively, with hands-on learning focused on content and skills relevant to students, and was cited as an essential component of manufacturing programs.

Industry Tours were listed as one of the most effective ways to expose students to manufacturing and emphasize the importance of STEM and its connections to manufacturing.

Parental Buy-In
Participants strongly agreed that without parental support, efforts to guide students into manufacturing careers can be very difficult, if not impossible. Educating and informing parents (and school personnel) to raise awareness is of key importance.

Advertising, Marketing and Publicity
Attendees emphasized the vital role targeted publicity plays in getting the word out. High quality, extensive advertising and marketing are essential to raise awareness and highlight the many manufacturing job opportunities available.

Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE says the goal is straight forward. “Through this activity we hope to develop executable proactive action plans to strengthen the perception of manufacturing within Florida communities and school districts.” As a part of the outreach activity, attendees were asked to create an action plan/blueprint for planning a Manufacturing Expo. Attendees agreed that a regional manufacturing expo would require the support of all stakeholders for funding, participation, organization and publicity. The consensus was that the Expo should be tailored to educating and informing students, parents, teachers and the community as a whole and focused on improving the image of the manufacturing industry as a whole.

At stated by Hoelke “I believe the number one message is to be involved.” FLATE proposes to use output from the workshop to coordinate various awareness activities. These include but are not limited to facilitating plant tours for middle and high school students and educators, outreach “tool kits” for each of the Regional Manufacturers Associations (RMA), participation in regional events to help promote technical education career paths, conduct teacher professional development workshops on manufacturing and its support technologies, and support the participation of FLDOE representatives at major RMA sponsored manufacturing career awareness events.

For information on the outreach activity, and about FLATE’s NVC visit http://www.fl-ate.org/committees/NVC.html, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org.