Manufacturing Excellence in Florida (part 2)

                                   
In the last FLATE FOCUS we started the conversation about Florida achieving manufacturing excellence. FLATE's part of that quest is the connection between quality and excellence expectations on the manufacturing floor and the workforce that provides the mechanism to achieve those expectations. The hard part of technical workforce development is reflected in the reality that the manufacturers alone cannot create the workforce that optimally complements the advanced technologies these manufacturers are simultaneously inserting into their manufacturing environments. To be sure, manufacturers do get great initial technical support from their equipment suppliers but those efforts are focused on installation and startup. Long term integration of new technologies into the main stream of a specific company’s manufacturing process and the accompanying protocols in a specific facility still remains squarely within the manufacturer's domain. Thus, a Florida based manufacturing workforce talent pool must have candidates that demonstrate a depth and breadth of knowledge and skills defined by the demands of various advanced manufacturing equipment technologies.


FloridaMakes, the United State Department of Commerce Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Center for Florida, and FLATE, a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Center for Manufacturing (NSF-ATE) in Florida, have entered into a partnership with the long-term goal to develop a world-class technical workforce that will be the backbone for Florida manufacturing.  This union allows the blending of focused resources and expertise to accomplish this mission. It also allows manufacturers to take advantage of the value-added both of these Centers possess.  Ultimately, FloridaMakes, as a member of the MEP National Network, and FLATE, as an NSF Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence, now have access to combined MEP and ATE national knowledge, current recommended practices, and expertise that will address the challenges generated by Florida's need to have a highly talented manufacturing workforce pool.

 At this point, four target mechanisms have been identified as key elements in creating this talent resource for manufacturers;

·       Work-based Learning
·       Internship & Apprenticeships
·       Skill Certification
·       Talent Pipeline Development.

Although these elements are foundation pillars for talent pool development, they are not addressed within a unified education strategy. Work-based learning and internship and apprenticeships, are viewed as standalone components for workforce training. The overall talent pipeline development does reside within the K-16 academic structure but it has, at best, a dim focus on manufacturing workforce career options. This MEP-ATE partnership in Florida is unique in the nation and it will result in a dramatic difference in the way these four workforce development elements are addressed in Florida.

This brings this FLATE FOCUS article full circle. The hard part of technical workforce development is reflected in the reality that manufacturers alone cannot create the workforce with the additional fact that the workforce pool needed cannot be created without manufacturers’ involvement. Fortunately for Florida, there are proactive Regional Manufacturing Associations (RMA) that are involved in workforce education and training. Please contact your RMA and join in their efforts.  For specific contact information about your RMA, either Richard Gilbert, gilbert@usf.edu or Lake Ray lake@fcmaweb.com from FLATE and the First Coast Manufacturing Association, respectively, will help you get connected. As FLATE FOCUS continues with this Manufacturing Excellence in Florida theme, we will elaborate on the components statekholders have that can directly contribute to creating a world class manufacturing workforce in Florida. The March FOCUS will address how this new FLATE and FloridaMakes partnership will make a major difference in the approach to manufacturing workforce development and manufacturing excellence in Florida.


For more information about FloridaMakes, visit their website.  If you have questions about this article, please contact Dr. Richard Gilbert at gilbert@usf.edu