Deputy Assistant Secretary of Manufacturing Visits FLATE at HCC Brandon

Manufacturing is a hot button topic and has been a recurring theme in many of President Obama’s speeches. This push to bring manufacturing to the forefront of the economy is not solely relegated to the national agenda, but is of top priority even in the sunshine state, home to more than 14,000 manufacturers. On the statewide level, Gov. Rick Scott has taken several measures in the last few years to encourage a favorable climate for manufacturers in Florida, and according to a study conducted by the Governor’s office Florida is “poised to capitalize on a national movement to reinvest in manufacturing by growing jobs and opportunities faster than any other state.” (Source: www.flgov.com). 

The study not only points to a thriving economy, but echoes overtones of the sentiment relayed by Chandra
Brown, deputy assistant secretary for manufacturing at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC. Ms. Brown recently visited the sunshine state, in lieu of a special invitation from Roy Sweatman, president & CEO of Southern Manufacturing Technologies in Tampa. “Chandra was interested in the school tours and since I am on the Workforce Development Subcommittee, I thought taking her to see some of the schools that have manufacturing related programs would be appropriate.” Sweatman who is a champion of manufacturing in Florida represents the voice of local industry and has served as a conduit in establishing a platform for industry to engage with students as well as educators.  “It never hurts to get that kind of exposure at a national level” said Sweatman who is an appointed member of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Council and a winner of the 2013 FLATE Industry Service Award.

Ms. Brown’s trip to Hillsborough Community College was characterized by her visit to FLATE at HCC in Brandon. Brown toured HCC’s engineering technology lab and got an overview of the A.S. degree in engineering technology currently offered at 14 state and community colleges across Florida. “FLATE is the pride and joy of HCC” said Dr. Carlos Soto, president of HCC’s Brandon campus. Soto earmarked Ms. Brown’s visit as a recognition not only of its state-of-the-art programs like the A.S. degree in engineering technology, but to the campus and the HCC’s efforts to work with local industries, the National Science Foundation and the Department of education to devise programs that meet the skillset and workforce needs of local manufacturers.

Of particular interest to Ms. Brown were FLATE’s “Made in Florida” industry tours. The MIF tours, for 
middle and high school students, have been an effective vehicle in stimulating students’ interest in STEM and manufacturing. To date, more than 4,472 students and 533 educators and parents have toured over 87 high-tech manufacturing facilities across Florida. “Thanks for the work you do. I have been impressed by the scale of investment that has and is currently being made in some of the places that I have visited during my tour” Brown said. These investments, she notes, in terms of new machinery, new plant/equipment and tours “reflects impressive growth and expansion” which according to Brown is “where the future lies,” and in turn could inspire 10 and 12 year olds to follow educational and career pathways in high-tech manufacturing.

As part of the trip and to capture a broader attempt to monitor a range of programs and oversee best practices in manufacturing education and training across the nation, Ms. Brown also toured the high-tech facilities of Southern Manufacturing Technologies in Tampa. She visited East Lake High School where she got a first-hand look at the Engineering and Manufacturing Academy. She also got an up-close look at Pinellas Technical Education Center’s Machining and Training apprenticeship program and Middleton Magnet High School’s Pre-Collegiate Academy for STEM. “I have been incredibly impressed with the quality and caliber of the people that I have met and their passion in what they are doing particularly helping raise/inspire the next generation of skilled workforce in manufacturing” Brown said.

Ms. Brown also addressed a group of local manufacturers. During a luncheon meeting, organized by Roy Sweatman, she addressed common concerns faced by manufacturers in Florida and across the nation, and outlined the need to change negative perceptions about manufacturing by educating parents, families, and teachers about manufacturing as a viable career option. “Manufacturing and a high-tech workforce is critical to the success of the manufacturing industry and stand as the pillars of our economy” said Brown. She underlined the critical role manufacturing plays in sustaining a strong economy and projecting it as an area that promises growth and expansion.

For more information on FLATE and its multi-pronged outreach to industry, educators and students visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org. For information on Roy Sweatman and Southern Manufacturing Technologies contact Roy at Roy@smt-tampa.com, or visit www.smt-tampa.com.