Manufacturing Excellence in Florida (part 3)

 FLATE’s focus is all about manufacturing excellence in Florida.  FLATE FOCUS is one way we keep you in the loop.  This manufacturing excellence series indicates what FLATE is doing to support manufacturer’s goals for product quality and production excellence.

Last month we indicated that a partnership between FloridaMakes and FLATE is being developed.  Both organizations have mission elements that deal with manufacturing workforce development and both draw resources from the federal government to accomplish their goals.  FloridaMakes executes the United State Department of Commerce Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Center in Florida, while FLATE is also the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Center for Manufacturing (NSF-ATE) in Florida.  This partnership with the long-term goal to develop a world-class technical workforce will be the human resource backbone for Florida manufacturing.  The union also allows the blending of focused resources and expertise to address the challenges generated by Florida's need to have a highly talented manufacturing workforce pool.

At this point, the partnership will address four target mechanisms as key elements in creating the talent resource manufacturers’ need;

  • 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 as well as 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.  Our MEP-ATE partnership in Florida is unique to the nation and it will result in a dramatic difference in the way these four workforce developments elements are addressed in Florida.

The first step is to alter the perceptions of manufacturers and educators in Florida about what these talent resource development elements are and how they should be integrated into Florida's education mechanisms and systems.  For example, skill certification is an important mechanism for building a strong connection between manufacturing workers possessing specially honed skills and easy access to 2-year technical degree programs available through the Florida State College system.  The MSSC (Manufacturing Skills Standard Council) Certified Production Technician ( CPT) is a great model example.

The MSSC-CPT was the first worker held industry credential that FLATE integrated into the Florida Department of Education framework structure.  Workers with a CPT credential are automatically entitled to 15 college credit hours as a component of the Florida College System Engineering Technology, ET, degree program.  This corresponds to one quarter of the total credit hours needed to acquire this Associate of Science degree.  It also articulates to two other A.S. programs, but for fewer credits.

The “win-win” connections are clear:  The worker has a strong incentive to enter the ET degree program; Workers in degree programs represent good candidates for manufacturers to move into higher responsibility positions; The colleges have more students in the ET program that have industry experience that can be shared with other students.  The challenge?  Not enough manufacturers, workers, career counselors, and human resource directors know about this manufacturing career path.  

This need for increased awareness by people involved in the manufacturing workforce space is exactly what FloridaMakes can facilitate.  Within its MEP activities FloridaMakes is constantly interacting directly with manufacturers and regional manufacturing associations all about Florida.  FLATE, by contrast, activities are directed to the education system that will generate new members of the advanced manufacturing workforce.  FLATE does interact with manufacturers across Florida but not nearly at the scale, repetitiveness, and effectiveness of FloridaMakes.

Partnering with FloridaMakes simplifies joint efforts to bring nationally recognized industry credential in to the community college education space and amplifies the benefits of credentials across the manufacturing workforce. Infusing skill credentials into the fabric of Florida’s education systems requires complementary action by education and manufacturing stakeholders. It also requires the answer to a host of "W" questions starting with; Which credential? And then immediately followed by the other classic 5 "W" questions:  Who uses it? What skills? Where does it fit in CTE education? Why a statewide need and When should it be taught? 

As a closing summary sentence: we (FloridaMakes and FLATE) represent a natural entity that has the knowledge, expertise, and experience to work with the Florida Department of Education, manufacturing interest, and the certification agencies to insert important industry recognized manufacturing related certification programs in the Career and Technical education pathways available within Florida's public school, technical college, and state college systems but input from you as to the credentials needed is the important first step of the process.  Please, take a little time and send us your thoughts.