Manufacturing Excellence in Florida (part 4)


                           
  Our focus on creating technicians that can support world class manufacturing in Florida continues.  FLATE, in partnership with FloridaMakes has initially identified four target mechanisms as key elements in creating the talent resource manufacturers’ need:

  1. ·         Work-based Learning
  2. ·         Internship & Apprenticeships
  3. ·         Skill Certification
  4. ·         Talent Pipeline Development.

Skill Certification was reviewed in the previous (Part 3) contribution in this Manufacturing Excellence in Florida series.  Also we indicated that these four key elements are foundation pillars for manufacturing excellence but they are not addressed within a unified education strategy.  Industry recognized certifications are new to the education domain while work-based learning, internships, 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.

Internships and Apprenticeships are valuable but complicated and/or confusing tools for workforce development.  The intern idea and function is well established.  The intent (http://flate-mif.blogspot.com/2013/07/) of an internship is elegantly simple: they put students into viable manufacturing situations where their technical skill and knowledge base can be developed and reinforced by hands-on experience in a workplace environment.  However, internships are not currently structured to make a systemic impact on technician education.

Internships operate at the local level. They are governed by individual school and company agreements.  Often an internship is just created at a single plant location and even isolated department with no interaction with any intern activity elsewhere in the company.  Local demand often lead to an “as needed basis” for using interns.  Although the experience is valuable for both the company and the intern, the company need is often satisfied with only one intern once.  Internships may or may not include school credit and the student may or may not be paid.  The unpaid internship approach is attractive to some business sectors because the compensation exchange involves student acquiring work experience and the employer getting help completing a temporary task.  However, recent U.S. Department of Labor guidelines have decreased the types of situations when students can work without pay and, in the long run, the non-pay experiences have very little positive impact on technician education.     

Apprenticeships operate at the local level, do include hands-on experiences, and have a structure that supports a systemic approach that fosters student skill and knowledge acquisition.  The U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship programs are housed at the Florida Department of Education.  Extensive and detailed information about these apprenticeships and how they work in Florida is available from
The FLDOE (richard.norman@fldoe.org).   Florida also supports Pre-apprenticeship programs in high schools.  Ted Norman is very knowledgeable of both programs and will help with all aspects of the initiation and operation of either or both.  In addition a series of FLATE FOCUS articles (http://flate-mif.blogspot.com/2013/06/) also provides information about the structure, guidelines, time, content, and expectations of apprenticeships.

The renewed interest in apprenticeships at the national level is exciting but does require a few cautionary remarks.  First, as the 20th century manufacturing workforce retirement numbers increases exponentially, manufacturers may need to replenish that workforce with the some classic apprentice trades (welders, machinists, tool and die makers, etc).  Second, the 21st century manufacturing need many more workers with skills beyond an apprenticeship base.  Third, apprenticeship programs require an employment, financial, and time investment by the employer.  The first and third comments are or will become obvious as the national discussion about apprenticeships continues.  However, the second remark need elaboration.

The inclusion of robotics, interactive control systems, industry 4.0, and extensive quality control mandates set new benchmarks for the manufacturing worker that far exceed the expectations acquired in a “classic” apprenticeship program.  If the apprenticeship model is to step into the new world of manufacturing, it must keep its traditional employment, financial, and time commitments but also include structured avenues to strengthen student multidimensional thinking and analysis abilities.  Thus, the challenge!  If you are actively involved in the new apprenticeship dialog make sure: (i) the target of those discussions far exceeds the simple support of more existing apprenticeships; and (ii) the expansion of apprenticeships to creating workers with elastic minds to address the operation and troubleshooting of cross skill and knowledge based manufacturing processes requires intense connections to two year college and Career and Technical Education programs. 

 
In summary, from a manufacturing perspective; everything is “up to date in Kansas City”.  In fact every manufacturing centric community in the country has or is installing 21st century equipment and processes into their manufacturing facilities.  But we have not gone about as far as we can go.  Apprenticeships programs can make a major contribute to the restructure of the workforce but not if they are restricted to their historic role and continue to be isolated from mainstream STEM education.