Advanced Manufacturing Institute Serves as a Highway Connecting Manufacturers and Educators

Manufacturers and educators are closely tied by some common goals. Now more than ever manufacturers and
educators are finding themselves standing on common ground looking to align towards each other’s needs. On one end of the continuum are educators who are looking to streamline curriculum to match local workforce needs; while on the other end of the same continuum are industry professionals who are depending on educators to equip and train students with credentials and ready-to-work skills that meet their current workforce needs. In an effort to bridge and/or lesson the gap between the two ends of this spectrum, FLATE recently hosted a summer Career Institute for educators that served as a common platform for industry and educators to openly discuss ideas and strategies to develop curriculum and training modules that match manufacturers’ needs.

The three day Institute involved 84 participants that included teachers, manufacturers and industry leaders
from across Florida who convened to share ideas and best practices and formulate streamlined education modules. “Like all good educators I want to see what the other educators are doing successfully” said Russ Henderlite, teacher at Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology in Jacksonville, FL. The workshop was infused with hands-on activities that centered on additive manufacturing, SolidWorks and 3D printing exercises targeted to give educators a hands-on perspective on cutting-edge manufacturing practices currently implemented by high-tech manufacturers across the state. “I loved the workshop as it gave me a real-world view of manufacturing and helped identify the gaps between education and employment” said Selena Lewis, Project Lead the Way teacher at Young Middle Magnet School in Tampa.

During the three day workshop, educators also got information about FLATE’s new CIS (Comprehension Instructional Sequence Model) lesson plans. This new curriculum is aligned with the common core/FL standards, and is designed to build learners’ background knowledge in STEM, expand their vocabularies, and promote reading/writing success. “I knew anything FLATE offered would be professionally rewarding for me” said Akilah Graham, teacher at Young Middle Magnet School who previously attended FLATE teacher camp and was inspired to start an “All Girls STEM Club” to get girls interested in STEM and robotics.

In addition to the curriculum piece, educators got a 360 degree perspective on manufacturing and STEM
being applied in real-world settings through industry tours to Vulcan Machine, Inc., Southern Manufacturing Technologies, and EMS Inc. in Tampa. “I had never been to a manufacturing facility. I liked seeing the 3D printers and how ubiquitous they are in the workplace” said Laurie Hamill, STEAM teacher at Rowlett Academy. Russ Henderlite, who works closely with FLATE Executive Director, Dr. Marilyn Barger on several curriculum issues, agreed the tours gave him additional insight on discussing various technologies at play, the range of materials and machines being used by manufacturers, that he could take back to the classroom and discuss with his students. 

The highlight of the three day workshop featured a luncheon tête-à-tête with a distinguished panel of manufacturers from across Florida. Educators and panelists discussed current educational and training requirements. They also examined the importance of certifications at the high school level, brainstormed ideas for creating ‘a hook’ for students to be engaged in manufacturing, and reviewed areas and opportunities for new training and education.

Manufacturers like Roy Sweatman, president and CEO of Southern Manufacturing Technologies, pointed to 
the importance of soft skills, ability of students/new employees to take on complex tasks, work as a team, develop effective communication, problem-solving and leadership skills. Both manufacturers and educators also stressed the significance of creating meaningful internships and apprenticeship programs, and also establishing sustainable partnerships with local industry contacts. With reference to industry-school relationships and adoptions, Dr. Marilyn Barger pointed to the “importance of establishing an institutional relationship vs. a personal relationship.” In terms of internships, Mike Brewster, vice president for Operations at Monin in Tampa, underlined the need to use interns in a productive manner. Mercedes Heredia, an engineering technology graduate from Hillsborough Community College who is currently interning at MiTek and served as a guest panelist along with Lydia Moring, HR manager at MiTek, also agreed supervisors play a definitive role in serving as a model in generating an intern’s interest in manufacturing careers. As for industry certifications, Russ Henderlite suggested using it as a general guideline of a current/prospective employee’s knowledge base, but not as a guarantee to assess the ability to apply theoretical principles in real-world settings. Following the luncheon session with manufacturers, the group was subdivided into groups of 4-6 participants for a one-on-one session with an industry panelist.

FLATE’s summer institute for educators afforded several enriching experiences in communicating and bridging common concerns of
educators and manufacturers. Post event survey data reflect an overall positive response from attendees. One hundred percent of the attendees stated they plan to use the information presented during the workshop. The same percentage (100%) also stated they would recommend the workshop to their peers/others. Approximately 90% of the attendees also stated the lunch with manufacturers was good and/or excellent. Approximately 95% of attendees rated their overall industry tour as good and/or excellent.

For more information about FLATE 2015 Advanced Manufacturing Institute visit www.fl-ate.org, or contact Dr, Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org