Recent Federal Investments build on FLATE’s Foundation


The Florida Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence, FLATE, uses its NSF-ATE resources to strengthen the advanced manufacturing technician education system in Florida. This effort exemplifies the creation of partnerships among the colleges, manufacturers, economic development organizations, Workforce Florida, and Florida Department of Education. Using this mutual effort among its partners, FLATE has brokered strong working relationships among faculty in the community and state colleges in Florida as well as with supporting industry and the Florida Department of Education initiatives.  Collectively, this effort has produced a first in the nation, a statewide-articulated A.S. Engineering Technology Degree program that also recognizes a national workforce credential as a substitute for 15 hours of program course credit.  FLATE has continued to strengthen the existing Engineering Technology college network as well as add others to the network.  A strong expanding college network happens because of mentoring activities, curriculum alignment, professional development opportunities, resource development, and interfacing between and among the colleges and the Florida Department of Education.  FLATE continues to weave the strong, thin, transparent thread that interlaces these activities. 

The FLATE designed and crafted A.S. engineering technology degree program is a model credential-based articulated pathway for manufacturing that was implemented by the Florida Department of Education in 2008.  The steady growth in the number of colleges adopting the degree as well as colleges partnering with FLATE to create an education system in Florida to meet industry needs is a key element in the growth in program offerings at each college. The end result has evolved into a strong community of practice amongst educators and industry professionals across the state.  With the national lens now strongly focused on manufacturing and innovation, this community of practice has become the seed for the genesis of several successful proposals with the U.S. Department of Labor. 

 The 2012 Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grants have been announced.    These grants are intended to help ensure that the Nation’s institutions of higher education are helping adults succeed in acquiring the skills, degrees, and credentials needed for the high–wage, high skill occupations that satisfy the requirements of employers of this skilled labor force.  An excellent example of this emerging partnership among NSF-ATE supported A.S. programs in Florida and the Department of Labor is the TAACCCT grant to the Florida TRADE program administered through St. Petersburg College.  This award is among the largest TAACCCT second round awards in the Nation and the largest in Florida.  TRADE’s goal is “to improve upon Florida’s existing training and education system in advanced manufacturing by aligning its vast resources and partnerships and offering wide access to training that will help address the growing critical skilled workforce shortage faced by the state’s manufacturing industry and related industry clusters.” 

TRADE has assembled a cohort of workforce and academic partners to address this goal with the essence of both groups being the two year college programs that will address the skills, degrees, and credential elements of the grant.   Of the 12 colleges identified within the TRADE program, 75% of these colleges already offer the Engineering Technology A.S. degree program and FLATE is working with two of the remaining four to help them adopt the ET Degree.  The FLATE developed ET degree is a foundation piece for training and education in the Florida TRADE consortium.  FLATE will work with these colleges and the Florida Department of Education to academically align additional nationally recognized workforce credentials to college credit certificates and degree credit.

Outside the TRADE consortium, Northwest State College (NWSC), Chipola College (CC), and Pensacola State College (PSC), partnered with an Alabama consortium housed at George Wallace Community College in Dothan, AL that is also focused on the manufacturing sector.  Together the three Florida colleges have been awarded $5.2 million to educate and train industrial electricians, welders, machinists, automation technicians, and industrial maintenance technicians.   In anticipation of this award, Northwest State College adopted the ET degree this past summer and is offering its first courses this fall. PSC will expand its existing ET certificate offerings to meet its training and education requirements.  FLATE will also be working with Chipola to define the best ET degree specialization programs to meet its consortium goals.

St Petersburg College is also engaged with a Forsythe Technical Community College Consortium for TAACCCT funding focused on Biosciences. SPC will be awarded $700,000 to participate with the group funded to define specific training and credentials for medical device manufacturing.  The strong medical device manufacturing cluster in the SPC service area will be supporting this effort. The Biomedical Systems College Certificate and the Biomedical Systems Technology Specialization in the ET Degree are foundations of SPC’s participation in this primarily North Carolina consortium.

Although Florida was not awarded significant funding in round 1 of the TAACCCT grants, Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) is a significant partner in the STEM Consortium housed at Ann Arundel Community College in Maryland.  This $20M consortium funded in 2011 is focused on a number of discipline areas with its college partners across the eastern US. One working team of this group is developing a 30 credit hour college certificate for Mechatronics. At FSCJ and in Florida, this certificate is an easy fit under the ET Degree Advanced Manufacturing Specialization.  FLATE and FSCJ will be submitting the required curriculum frameworks and justification to the FLDOE this month.  Embedded in this certificate will be an alignment to the MSSC CPT as well another to the Siemens mechatronics certification.

Adding to the investment in Florida manufacturing education and in support of FLATE’s ET community, a number of the 2012 NSF-ATE awards are projects that use the foundation of FLATE’s Engineering Technology Degree.  Polk State College was funded to evolve their ET Degree in to open entry/open exit format to address the needs of the working students in their service area.  This innovative idea allows the college to transition its ET Advanced Manufacturing Degree courses into one credit hour modules and offer an open lab with faculty coaches. Tallahassee Community College (TCC) was awarded funding to help adopt the A.S. ET degree, after having adopted a number of the ET college certificates two years ago.  TCC has partnered with three high school engineering programs to build a pipeline of students for the new degree.  Lastly, our home institution, HCC, was awarded $2.8 million that will allow FLATE to continue as a statewide NSF Center of Excellence for an additional 3 years.

Working together and leveraging our early NSF investments, we are building a strong infrastructure for manufacturing education.  When added up, the new investments are staggering. We must not only invest the incoming funds to meet the specific deliverables of all these grants, but continue to build our Florida manufacturing community.  Hopefully, we can be good stewards of the new funds, investing it wisely to create a sustainable and strong future for manufacturing education in Florida.