FLATE Steps Forward in Building Strategic & Sustainable Industry-Education Partnerships

FLATE, the Florida Advanced Technological Education Regional Center of Excellence, was established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2004 to help develop a skilled and qualified workforce for Florida’s manufacturers. FLATE builds the pipeline of future workers for Florida's advanced manufacturing sector by using a comprehensive, three pronged approach: Curriculum Reform, Outreach, and Professional Development. FLATE’s vision and mission are grounded in collaborative partnerships. In 2011, Florida industry expressed the need for partnerships with schools to develop a pipeline of STEM-educated employees, and schools have expressed a strong desire for this partnership, but both entities have had a slow start forging ahead to make these partnerships happen.

Given the interest from both sides of the continuum, FLATE has stepped in to facilitate strategic partnerships between industry and education at both the grass roots and higher levels. Through the Center’s efforts, industry and educational institutions can now engage in a variety of partnerships and activities as outlined in our new guide that is currently in production and produced in partnership with the Manufacturers Association of Florida’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAME). Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE says “partnerships often begin with a single, regular involvement in an outreach activity, and increases as interest in that activity grows and expands to others.” Although partnerships may start with a single person in a school, or company, it is imperative this initiative will expand to involve more stakeholders. In the school, this could be a program director (CTE director and/or principal). At the company, the group might include human resources, media and outreach/community involvement personnel as well as plant or operations managers, engineers and/or technicians. “Strong, lasting partnerships involve relationship, and relationships involve people” Barger said.

FLATE’s goal in this activity is to build a network of sustainable partnerships. As a first step forward in that direction, FLATE is sharing lessons learned and best practices on how to create successful and sustainable school/industry partnerships. The Center is offering a “laundry list” of possibilities that schools and industry can mix and match to create strong partnerships that result in “win-win” scenarios for both. “We will offer tips for talking with students about aspects of manufacturing that young people can relate to and are even passionate about” said Barger. The partnerships will have many common and fundamental threads, but they won’t look alike and shouldn’t! FLATE can help you get started on your partnership adventure to grow a strong and engaging educational pathway for manufacturing careers. Please do not hesitate to share your stories; we would love to celebrate and share them.

Finally, providing the correct image of manufacturing is imperative. Many still see the manufacturing industry as merely assembly lines of workers manually processing widgets all day. Educating and informing students (and parents) about the world of modern manufacturing and the opportunities available in the field is essential. Too many young people are disregarding manufacturing as a career, unaware of the career and wage potential. However, the image will not change unless we do something to change it. Involvement is vital!

Look for the new FLATE Best Practice Guide in January and hit the ground running in 2013. To join FLATE in this strategic mission visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, P.I. & executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org.