FLATE’s IAC Serves as a Confluence of Ideas to Educate/Train Manufacturing Workforce

FLATE’s Industrial Advisory Committee (IAC) has served as a vehicle in incorporating voices of industry
and education to streamline its curriculum, outreach and professional development efforts. The IAC consists of industry partners from the manufacturing community, representatives from related professional and industry organizations, and others in the community interested in advancing technician education and training of the manufacturing workforce in Florida. Tina Brudnicki, current Chair of the IAC and a member since 2005 says the role of the IAC is “to promote and support the education and training of the current and future manufacturing workforce.” Brudnicki views the IAC as a strategic partner with local industry to lay a strong foundation for a qualified workforce in Florida.

Meetings are held two/three times a year at state/community colleges, or at a local manufacturing facility which helps area manufacturers showcase some of their high-tech operations, and make it accessible for members across Florida to attend either in person, or remotely. The Committee works largely under the guidance of Brad Jenkins, program director for the engineering technology program at St. Petersburg College and one of FLATE’s principal investigators.

Most IAC meetings serve as a dynamic marketplace to exchange ideas between industry leaders and educators. Discussions center on technology and workforce trends for technicians, industry certifications, updates from regional manufacturers associations and/or industry partners, or any topic considered relevant to manufacturers across Florida. For members like Dale Toney and Tina Brudnicki the IAC meeting represents a confluence of ideas between educators and local industry.

From his participation at the recent meeting, Toney notes a need for a game changer in terms of how
companies conduct daily business and devise a plan to reach out to the emerging talent pool. Toney, who has been a member for the past three years and an instructor at the Robotics & Automation Design Academy which is affiliated with Marion Technical Institute in Ocala, FL., says “creating awareness and cultivating interest from the get-go is key.” He makes an interesting point in noting that traditional communication tools like newspapers, journal articles, or television are less effective in reaching out to teenagers. Most teenagers he says get their staple diet of news via word-of-mouth from teachers, career counselors, and more recently via social networking. These coupled with a younger, a fresher voice he says will connect better and attract younger students to manufacturing.

Voices of educators and industry leaders like Toney and Tina play an important role in dictating IAC meeting agendas and maneuvering FLATE’s curriculum projects. Both Toney and Brudnicki appreciate FLATE’s efforts to ensure representation of educators and industry at these meetings. Then too, equally, if not more important, they say is the need  to incorporate the voices of local legislators, vocational directors, principals and superintendents who in essence function as decision makers and financial planners in the educational continuum.

For future meeting discussions, Toney hopes to see a defined/structured list of skills that educators need to
be concentrating on so they can streamline curriculum and instruction at the high school level. He also encourages industries to come to the classroom and talk to students about certifications and skills set they are looking for in current/future employees which in turn would help students align their educational goals to match industry needs. Tina, on the other hand, hopes the statewide A.S. degree in engineering technology, which represents the culmination of a joint effort between FLATE and the IAC, will eventually serve as an incentive for industry to find qualified workforce and relocate to Florida.

For more information on FLATE IAC visit www.fl-ate.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org