Puzzling the Pieces to Create Florida's World Class Manufacturing Workforce


Since its inception, FLATE wanted a technical education system that would lead to the creation of a world class manufacturing supportive workforce.  This lofty target was understood to require many puzzle pieces to fit together.  For FLATE's part, the puzzle pieces focus on providing technician career paths that assure workforce excellences in Florida's manufacturing sectors.  The first phase toward world class status was to establish a structure within the Florida State College system that would be one of the vehicles for change in the way manufacturing supportive technologies were taught in Florida.

That first phase target task is completed.  The A.S. Degree in Engineering Technology (E.T.) developed by FLATE and now supported by the Florida Department of Education and executed within 20 colleges in the Florida State College System is a statewide uniform platform that establishes the core technical skills and knowledge expectations of every E.T. graduate in Florida.  In addition, the degree provides each participating college the ability to focus on E.T. specializations that bring graduates to a higher skill level in specific technical areas that are important to manufacturers within their local college's service region.  This combination of fundamental and advanced specified manufacturing supportive skills and knowledge puts Florida on the path to a world class education system for future technicians in manufacturing that has multiple career path options for all E.T. graduates.    

Careers in manufacturing exist and are a topic for a future FLATE Focus but these options don't guarantee a world class status for Florida manufacturing.  Workforce excellence does generate that assurance.  This puzzle piece has a broader base of responsibility than colleges offering technician creation degrees.  However, colleges still have a significant excellence component contribution to offer.  The E.T. faculty expertise and E.T. curriculum content has to be repeatedly reviewed for manufacturing relevance.  Procedures for both of these tasks are in place and executed.  The E.T. curriculum is reviewed at the Florida Department of Education (FLDoE) level every three years.  The curriculum content review requires a (FLDoE) appointed committee (half from manufacturing and E.T. faculty) with statewide membership to submit recommendations.  The faculty expertise needed as new manufacturing technologies become reality on the manufacturing floor is accomplished through two FLATE facilitated faculty development mechanisms.

The first, the Florida Engineering Technology Forum, is a twice a year gathering of faculty and administrators in two-year manufacturing supportive A.S. programs that provides important updates and changes dictated by Florida legislative actions as well as Forum sessions driven by subject matter experts.  Resources provided by outside funding including the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (NSF-ATE) program represents the second mechanism that E.T. faculty expertise is expanded to new technologies.  FLATE provides NSF-ATE based assistance as well as actively supporting college faculty efforts to write proposals to the NSF-ATE program for grant funds that result in faculty involvement in professional development technical courses and conferences.

Now, to borrow and modify a song lyric from a very famous Broadway musical, "FLATE's has gone about as far as it can go" by itself.   Florida has a stable but flexible technical skills and knowledge pathway that leads to careers as technicians and future work in supervision and/or engineering.  Florida has vibrant Career and Technical Education programs.  Florida has mechanisms to keep technical faculty "on top of their game" but that isn't enough to create a world class manufacturing workforce.  There are more parts to the puzzle.  Those parts require partnerships and the key partnership in this case involves FLATE and FloridaMakes.  FloridaMakes brings two important puzzle components, RMA and MEP (both bring their manufacturers and partners) into play.  If these puzzle parts, RMA and MEP, are a puzzle themselves that's another reason to catch the next FLATE Focus where FloridaMakes's role in the quest for work class manufacturing recognition is explored.