Executive Director’s Desk: Pack on and Stock up Your Professional Development Toolkit at an NSF ATE Conference this Fall!

Manufacturing Month is here and we are off to a great start in Florida with a record number of “Made
in Florida” student tours on Friday October 3, and more coming scheduled for rest of the month. We hope all manufacturing celebrations and events, this month bring good coverage from the local, regional, state and national press as well as nudge the needle upward on positive perceptions for advanced manufacturing careers and great educational pathways. There are still lot of unfilled jobs requiring skills and education waiting for young talent in all manufacturing sectors. Be on the lookout for local celebrations. You should all be taking part in them!

But October is also a very busy month for conferences and offers a lot of dissemination opportunities for FLATE and our work here in Florida. It’s also the time of year the NSF ATE program accepts proposals for funding to support projects for the “Next American Workforce”. This week is the deadline to submit those proposals that support improvement of institutional (credit-bearing) education programs in advanced technologies from aerospace to viticulture. Developing a good, fundable proposal takes focused energy and requires innovation and tenacity. It’s a unique challenge for any educator to basically build a sound “business plan” for their idea, or ideas to improve their advanced technology program. It will be frustrating, but fun. The NSF ATE program offers a variety of options, but the most commonly funded projects are focused on a local strategy for technical education program improvement. Typically they are categorized in three areas:

·   Improve faculty and teachers in technical, business, and pedagogy knowledge with strategic and meaningful professional development.
·   Enhance, reform and/or update curriculum based on industry input/feedback.
·   Bolster program enrollment and completions with strategies for recruitment and retention for all students, especially including underrepresented. 

One catch for NSF ATE projects is that industry must play an important and visible role so that projects are sure they are meeting industry needs. Another catch is that technical faculty from two-year programs must be involved in a leadership role. Start thinking about a proposal for next year – October 2015 – and let us know if and how we can help.

Funded projects personnel with colleagues and stakeholders are required to attend the annual NSF
ATE Principal Investigator Conference. I always say that this conference is like many others- but on steroids! AACC (the American Association of Community Colleges) manages the conference every year in Washington DC.  It’s a packed two days of sessions, round table discussions, workshops, and showcases where all projects and centers disseminate their products, activities, outcomes, best practices and services. It’s a wonderful place to get ideas from existing funded projects and meet new partners. NSF encourages building on and borrowing from successful projects – so how can you loose! 

Typically, FLATE has a team of staff, principals, and stakeholders attending. We bring at least one industry partner every year and get him/her engaged in a conference at many levels and are truly “wowed” by incredible excitement, synergy, collaborations, and energy at this conference focused on preparing the best possible workforce for each of them.  

This year, Terry Iverson, chair of FLATE’s NVC will present with FLATE and the CA2VES center
on engaging youth using non-traditional strategies and social media. Terry will also participate in a student “speed dating” session, exposing student attendees to many industry representatives attending the conference. This in an opportunity for the student to gain insight into what companies want from new hires and opportunities for the industry folks to puzzle together what and how our 21st century student think, and what’s important to them. (I cannot wait to hear what he learns!) We will return to Florida exhausted, but energized – and just in time to announce the 2014 FLATE Manufacturing Educators and Industry awards as a closing highlight to Manufacturing Month.

The October edition of the FLATE Focus is ripe with news and ideas about events and opportunities for technicians, educators and students to participate in. We hope you enjoy the stories and sign up for some of these activities happening this fall. Before you sign off, check your answers to last month’s sTEm puzzle and send us your thoughts and comments.