FLATE's Role in Florida's Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Creation

FLATE continues its partnership efforts with FloridaMakes to be the driving point for manufacturing education excellence. As indicated in our October edition of the FLATE Focus, a three pronged manufacturing situation reality is still the challenge to be dealt with:

  • Baby boomers are leaving the technical workforce taking their valuable experience
    and skills with them. 
  • Technology is changing pace exponentially and at no other time has technical innovation moved so quickly into the manufacturing sector.
  • High skilled related manufacturing is moving back to the U.S. creating an even bigger demand on the manufacturer workforce needs.

Although these issues magnify the skills gap problem Florida manufacturers face, they also mask the inherent nature of this skills gap. 

The Engineering Colleges within the Florida University System produce national accredited B.S. Degree Engineering program graduates that are well qualified to support advanced manufacturing facilities in Florida. Even with this well qualified talent pool development, these colleges deal with an inherent lag with respect to providing manufactures with engineering graduates that have the skills needed to address the ever changing challenges generated by new technologies insert into the manufacturing sector.

This skills gap generation is broadened and accented when dealing with the technical workforce

preparation that is the responsibility of Florida’s education structure below the engineering degree delivery level. Manufacturing supportive technical programs that are housed within the Florida College System are by their nature supported by evidence of employment for their graduates. The state and community colleges in Florida do not initiate new programs of study unless there is a verifiable indication by manufacturers within their service region that those graduates are immediately employable. The technical education provided within the state’s technical college and high school academy framework have the same built in lag. Thus, there is an inherent knowledge and skills gap (lag) between what a manufacture needs and what Florida’s education system can deliver. However, that does not mean that this gap cannot be systematically reduced. That reduction action alone will increase Florida’s manufacturing efficiency and raise its competitive profile nationally and internationally.

This systematic reduction of the gap between manufacturers’ need of its technical workforce due to the ever increasing rate of new technologies additions to manufacturing floor and the skills Florida's education system is installing into future members of that workforce is exactly the heart of the FloridaMakes-FLATE partnership. FLATE is now using NSF awarded transition funds to combine with FloridaMakes resources to focus on manufacturing workforce development. Specific partnership projects include:

  • A.S. Degree technician education industry recognized credentials that complement recognized apprenticeship programs. 
  • High School Manufacturing Academy program promotion. 
  • A.S. Degree and CTE faculty and program support. 
  • Faculty subject matter expert network available to industry for focused manufacturing training. 

The goal is to create a synergy that increases critical interactions between manufacturers and this supportive manufacturing education infrastructure. More intense manufacturing interaction triggers previously unused (or perhaps unknown) communication channels that will bring knowledge of manufacturer's new technology workforce skill needs directly to the attention of the programs that produce the workforce that will work with those technologies. FLATE can then insert the appropriate direct interventions within the multilevel manufacturing education infrastructure to address the identified gap. 

FLATE's ease of interaction at any level of manufacturing education within the state's education structure is one of the most important long term legacies that NSF has provided to Florida.
Recognition of this quality and FLATE-FloridaMakes partnership effort and its potential to Florida manufacturing is growing. FloridaMakes is committed to FLATE’s continuation. In addition, the Florida legislature is aware of this effort. State Representative Jason Fishcer with co-sponsorship support from Florida State Senator Ken Perry have introduced a bill, HB 2737, that recognizes the need for the high-wage career paths the manufacturing sector offers as well as manufacturing's contribution to Florida's efforts to build a strong and diversified economy. The objectives of their bill dovetail with the intent of our partnership with FloridaMakes. As direct FLATE funding from NSF-ATE continues to phase out, resources for FLATE must come from partnership interactions that draw needed support from other sources (e.g., HB 2727). Thus, we encourage readers to speak to FLATE's value to the manufacturing community as well as the Florida Legislature members. Communication in support of HB2737 represents one way to do that.

For more information about FLATE and its ongoing initiatives in support of manufacturing education and training in Florida visit www.fl-ate.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org.