From the Executive Director’s Desk: Taking Care of Business

Last year, FLATE hosted its 11th annual National Visiting Committee (NVC) in Miramar, FL. Usually these meetings are held at an industry location somewhere in the state. This year, however, we  met at FLATE’s host institution and campus, Hillsborough Community College Brandon campus. The FLATE NVC provides advice, advocacy, assessment and assistance not just at this one strategic meeting each year, but also more informally, during the months in between. We are proud of not only the size of our committee, but also its composition of 12 dedicated individuals with interest in the state of manufacturing technician education in Florida and across the country. A typical one-and-half  to two-day meeting agenda includes a number of standard “sessions” including:
  • Reporting and updating on activities and programs during the past year 
  • Evaluation report from an external evaluator
  • Overview of a local technician program and its students
  • Visit to a local industry
  • Discussions with the Center’s NSF ATE program officer (typically this is done remotely)
  • Closed session for the NVC to discuss concerns, recommendations and plaudits
  • NVC report out to the Center Leadership and NSF program officer

This year we showcased the HCC Engineering Technology program and some of the students currently enrolled in the two year A.S. in engineering technology degree. We also visited Timbar, a local box-making facility which houses a fascinating high-tech, high-speed production facility near our campus. FLATE also invited our Tampa Bay area stakeholders to meet and interact with our NVC members on Thursday evening to share their stories of working with FLATE. Leo Reddy, Chair and CEO of MSSC addressed this mixed group and gave his view of manufacturing industry credentials and its importance in addressing current skills gap.

Every year this annual NVC meeting provides a great opportunity for us at FLATE to look back retrospectively and assess what we have accomplished in the previous year. We look for previously unidentified synergies, make improvements in processes, projects, etc., and plan for the upcoming year by identifying opportunities to scale and leverage projects, activities and partners. Of course this summing of our year’s work also lets us follow our Sterling Quality plan by providing us time to focus on things we can improve and tweak in various aspects of our work including evaluation, processes, communications, and operations. Our evaluator, Phil Centonze would say this is part of the ongoing improvement process that helps us evaluate the ideas we are considering implementing for additional impact.

We are very proud of our long-term partnership and friendship with each member of our NVC and of the committee as a whole. Several of the 12-member committee have served on FLATE’s NVC for over 10 years. The longevity of most members adds to the richness and frankness of the discussions and conversations because they are comfortable with each other, the FLATE leadership and the FLATE staff.  

The meeting is now over, but the NVC is still preparing their annual report that is directly submitted to our NSF program officer. The NVC report is one of several reporting requirements for NSF ATE Centers that together weave a picture of our progress, successes, intellectual merit and broader impacts. Next month, we will share the NVC’s recommendations and concerns, so stay tuned for additional updates.

Our work for 2016 and beyond has just begun. We start this endeavor by highlighting some of our current and ongoing projects, partnerships and events. In this edition get up-to-speed with updates from the recent Florida Career Pathways Symposium where educational leaders and practitioners discussed initiatives impacting career & technical education in Florida. We also have two stories about our new partnerships: one with FloridaMakes; the other Duoc UC in Santiago, Chile, both of which solidifies FLATE’s strategic mission to support growth of Florida manufacturing and technician education and training through exchange programs with some of our international partners.

As we draw closer to Spring we encourage you to support local robotics events. Read the article about the 2016 National Robotics week to see how you can locally participate in this national event, or tune into the piece about the Engineering Academy at Greco Middle School and learn how local schools are educating the next generation of engineers. We have a new sTEm puzzle to challenge your STEM skills this month, and a short round up on Suncoast Technical College students as they surge ahead in getting NIMS certified.

This and much more in this edition of the FLATE Focus. We love hearing from you so send us your thoughts by scribbling a few lines below each blog post. You can also connect with us socially on LinkedIn, Facebook, or tweet us @Made_InFlorida.