33rd ET Forum Looks at Advancing Technology through Curriculum, Certification & Strategic Recruitment

The Forum on Engineering Technology (ET Forum) has served as an important vehicle for bringing together Florida’s diverse and geographically dispersed community. FLATE works with the Forum to strengthen the consortium, share its administrative activities and projects, provide professional development, bring industry and academia together, and engage in statewide curriculum reform. Over the years, it has become a true community of practice. The Forum meets twice a year; and since 1996 has convened thirty-one times at over 19 different Florida colleges.

The most recent, 33rd ET Forum was held at the Advanced Technology Center at Gulf Coast State 
College (GCSC). In keeping with the theme of the Forum, Advancing Technology, the Forum included discussion about curriculum and industry certifications, economic development, and FL DOE updates. Thirty-eight attendees from 15 colleges convened at GCSC for a two-day meeting on Sept. 25 and 26. Topics included new technical trends in education, curriculum issues, accelerated credit articulations, articulations with the military, and tracking graduating ET students into the workforce.

At the Forum, FLATE held a professional development workshop addressing successful working models for recruiting high school students (especially girls). Among the several working models for secondary student connection, the most effective were: Tallahassee Community College’s dual enrollment program, Polk State College’s high school advisory committee, St. Petersburg College’s Lab Share with local high schools, and FLATE’s “Engineering Technology Experience” at Hillsborough Community College. “These programs generate ET interest among secondary students which supplies the enrollment pipeline for college programs” said Dr. Marie Boyette, associate director of FLATE who was attending the Forum.

The brainstorming “think-pair-share” activity encouraged participants to think outside-the-box and identify an ideal collaboration/recruitment process for secondary students which could potentially lead to increased enrollment and include a focus on girls. Core themes included more traditional approaches such as outreach to girls by female mentors employed in the advanced manufacturing industry, and a focus on engineering and technology as helping professions. Other novel ideas included fabrication projects for girls in collaboration with industry partners, and the idea of recruitment of girls by teams of male students! Consensus was reached on the importance of seeding programs with scholarships. Participants returning surveys at the end of the workshop indicated they would be sharing what they learned in the workshop with colleagues, and/or use an activity or strategy from the workshop in their work.

As is the case with all ET Forums, participants are surveyed for effectiveness to ensure that the
Forum continues to meet attendee needs. Two events at this Forum ranked highest with overall ratings of 4.9 out of a possible 5 (Excellent). Those included updates provided by  Richard “Ted” Norman who serves as Florida's Career and Adult Education State Supervisor for Manufacturing, Transportation, Distribution & Logistics at FL DOE. The other was the tour of GCSC’s new Advanced Technology Center “where innovation, business, and education thrive.” 100% of survey responders reported they intended to use information presented at the ET Forum. Attendees walked away with ideas for “development and modification of manufacturing programs specific to industry needs” and reported that “the networking resulted in partnerships with various colleges.”

 The Florida Engineering Technology Leadership Council and the Engineering Technology Forum was established in April 1997 at Seminole Community College (now Seminole State College). Membership includes department heads and the leaders of the Technology programs in the State of Florida.  Since 2009, the ET Forum has served over 400 participants at this bi-annual statewide meeting where Engineering Technology college faculty, program managers, workforce and economic development personnel, the Florida Department of Education (FL DOE) and related college technology educators and administrators can bring common issues to the table for discussion, share resources, and learn.

Half of Florida’s community and state colleges (14 out of 28) regularly attend these meetings, making them a nexus not only for raising awareness, but for mobilizing discussions into actions. The ET Forum also provides a venue for collecting information about ET students. FLATE conducts survey, collects data and compiles information that it shares with Forum members who are interested in recruiting new students and/or capture how ET students have used their degree to augment professional aspirations.

The next ET Forum will be traveling for the first time to the Florida Keys and hosted at Florida Keys Community College on April 9th and 10th. For more information on the Forum and/or A.S.E.T degree visit http://fl-ate.org/projects/et-forum.html.