From the Executive Director’s Desk: A Focus on Work-Based Learning

On Wednesday, February 25, FLATE participated in a half day forum focused on Work-Based Learning hosted by Johnson & Johnson Vision Care (Jacksonville) and sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers Manufacturing Institute. More than 60 people attended including representatives from the Florida TRADE consortium, state and community colleges, regional industry workforce development and others. The Manufacturing Institute provided some national data about the current and future skills gap for manufacturing. This information underscored the huge need for educated and trained professionals to service the manufacturing workforce in the next decade. CareerSource Florida provided similar information about this skills gap in Florida. Following those brief introductory remarks to set the stage, the audience heard from small and large manufacturers about their needs and work-based learning programs. Allowing that many manufacturers have college programs for engineering and science interns, the conversation quickly turned to the technical workforce below the four-year professionals.

In Florida, the growing complexity of the manufacturing workforce is constantly lowering the technical employment opportunities for unskilled workers.(Opportunities manufacturers relied on for decades.) The focus of the next panels was how to get a simple message to young people that “there are great and exciting skills-focused jobs and careers in manufacturing waiting for you after a couple years of post-secondary education and/or training.” We just have to get students to buy into this fact. Johnson and Johnson Vision Care, a large multi-national company and Metal Essence, a small Florida-based company, related their new experiences with partnering with schools and colleges to provide on-the-job experiences as well as  lessons learned and plans for the future. Most importantly, Al Stimac from Metal Essence summarized the Florida statute that deals with high school students as related to work they can do and the limitations on the number of hours worked without added company investment and liability.

A panel of educators closed this Work-Based Learning Forum with details on specific case
studies across the Florida workforce spectra that included high school, dislocated and incumbent worker training, and traditional A.S. technical programs. From these studies and other efforts from FLATE, it is clear that Florida has a continuum of work-based learning activities from early exposure through company tours, classroom speakers, job shadowing through technical workplace experience as manifested with some kind and level of internships, to registered apprenticeships. Along this continuum there is always a requirement for commitment, context, and contracts. As more and more companies (as documented in Florida with the annual increase of participants on Manufacturing Day)  open their doors to tours, they are becoming more open to taking the next step of hosting college and high school interns.

In 2013, FLATE Focus ran a series of articles about work-place learning, digging into the details of the very formal registered apprenticeships, the variety of internships, and internship-like programs, and the more informal part-time jobs.  You can view the Work-Based Learning Forum Agenda here: http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/About/Events/Calendar-Events/2016/02/Florida-Forum.aspx. You can also find out more about Florida Child Labor Laws in this easy to read ‘Question and Answer’ format: Child Labor Laws Frequently Asked Questions by Educators http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/reg/childlabor/documents/faq_doe.pdf   

Please take a little additional time and check out the rest of the stories in this month's FLATE Focus including the answer to last month's sTEm-at-work puzzle. Of course, if you are in Florida, don't forget to put a bit of spring training baseball into your "Things to do in March" bucket list.