FOCUS on the IAC

FLATE’s Industry Advisory Committee (IAC), meets tri-annually to promote and provide sustainability for a strong industry connection with the Engineering Technology (ET) Degree Program. An industry tour for IAC participants at the host’s advanced manufacturing site is the usual opening to the meeting, and provides a firsthand look at the operations and machinery in use. After the tour, participants meet in a typical conference or meeting room with an additional online connection provided via Adobe Connect and facilitated by FLATE for those who are participating from a distance. News, updates and feedback includes Regional Manufacturers Association (RMA) reports on the activities and plans of RMAs. The collaborative nature of the IAC helps FLATE and others identify ways to help. For example, FLATE provided a complete “outreach pack” to RMAs for use in 2012 which included ready-to-use presentations, the Made in Florida video, and a wealth of print and online collateral materials ready for student outreach. IAC is an important way in which FLATE receives feedback, resulting in the newly remodeled FLATE website with its updated industry page. FLATE’s external evaluator provides a formal presentation at each meeting reflecting on different aspects of FLATE’s industry endorsed Baldrige Sterling evaluation and objectives. IAC group activities have involved the group in feedback for new FLATE Goals, a STEM Survey, Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) curriculum frameworks review of standards and benchmarks, and Nanotechnology inventory among others, providing the necessary and valuable feedback required as go forward in these projects.

The value of the industry certifications and what that brings to local industry provides a forum for a good discussion. The topic of certificates and training covers a wide range of areas. The benefits of the industry certifications including the MSSC, the value of these industry certifications, and the employment outlook for the local region and the state are all variables in the equation. The MSSC in many areas is now a preferred characteristic for employment, but to promote specific technical expertise, industry support and collaboration is needed.

Industry trends and the educational connection are always important topics for IAC discussion, with the education connection for workforce pipeline development emphasized. Discussions target the ways and means of interaction with industry partners and outreach for local educational institutions (especially high school students and their parents). Since manufacturing forms a viable part of the community, it’s important to support and grow that connection’s positive visibility, and IAC input helps with that. Industry trend discussions include participant’s’ experiences working with the local workforce boards and the economic development council to provide a pipeline of technical talent needed not only for the host’s and participants’ businesses, but for the state of Florida. Hearing from students is important in order to evaluate the education-to-industry connection from a student’s perspective. At the September 2012 meeting, three current HCC Engineering Technology students shared the many benefits of the ET degree: applying the MSSC toward 15 college credit hours, the appropriateness of the degree to prepare for promotion at students’ current place of employment, potential to continue on to a more advanced degree after receiving the A.S., and the ability to use the skill set they acquired in the military.

Overall, the IAC provides an opportunity for FLATE, educators, industry partners, and state level workforce partners to meet, partner, collaborate and achieve. Sharing is an effective enabler for avoiding duplication of effort and for forwarding initiatives in research, resources, and knowledge sharing. IAC feedback helps insure that the Engineering Technology program continues to support the needs of Florida industry. Contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org to become involved.