Student’s Career Path Changed by MFG Day Tours

FLATE recently interviewed Austin Atwood, a Quality Assurance Technician at Southern Manufacturing Technologies (SMT). We learned that he had plans to enter the medical field like both his parents until he participated in FLATE’s MFG Day tour program when he was a junior in high school. Atwood credits his career path change 100% to the MFG Day tour.


WE UNDERSTAND YOU PARTICIPATED IN A MANUFACTURING DAY TOUR WHEN YOU WERE A JUNIOR IN THE ENGINEERING ACADEMY AT RIVER RIDGE HIGH SCHOOL. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE TOUR AND WHAT WAS INTERESTING ABOUT IT?

It's kind of hard to say because a little bit of everything. At that point, I wasn’t at the level I’m at now. I was very much entry level so everything was very new to me, everything was very interesting. Before I went into the engineering academy, I wanted to be a registered nurse, because both of my parents were in the medical field. And then I got into the Engineering Academy and I started to think that maybe that wasn’t it. And then I took the tour on Manufacturing Day and I got the job at SMT a year later and then I ended up completely changing my career path and I ended up here in engineering.

WHAT ARE YOU STUDYING NOW?

Currently, I’m in my final semester of studying Engineering Technology at Pasco Hernando Community College. I’m taking the last three classes right now. But I’ve bounced around a couple of different degree paths. At one point, I was going for Mechanical Engineering at USF and then I decided that wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. It was just a little too cerebral, not enough hands-on. So, I’ve been in college about six years now, but to be completely honest, it would have been two years if I had put in the footwork and found this degree program initially and realized what it was. It wasn’t until I knew what I was looking for that I found this and said, “Hey, that’s what I’m looking for.”


YOUR JOB AT SMT CAME ABOUT BECAUSE OF YOUR MANUFACTURING DAY TOUR. WHAT IS YOUR TITLE AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AT SMT?


I’m going to be completely honest with you. I don’t know my current title because I’ve bounced around between so many different things. At one point, I was the CNC Operator. Right now, I think the best answer would be a Quality Assurance Technician. I’ve been doing that here for about a year and a half now, but I’ve been with SMT for almost 8 years.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN AT RIVER RIDGE OR IN COLLEGE THAT DIRECTLY SUPPORTS YOUR JOB OR WOULD YOU SAY THAT YOU LEARNED ON THE JOB?


A lot of what I learned was on the job, but a lot of that is because of the roundabout route I took. By the time I got into Engineering Technology, I had been at SMT for 6 years and I knew what I was being taught. However, with that being said, if I had just started in Engineering Technology, just about every class had some kind of basis into what I’m doing. To the point where I took a class about Programmable Logic Controllers and I thought it would have nothing to do with my job and then I found out that they are the brains of all the machines I was running. So, I was all of a sudden sitting in class learning “oh, that’s why I need to do this combination of buttons.” Whereas, at work, it was just “you’re on the job, the machine’s waiting, this is what you need to do to get it running.” So very much so my college was more about explaining why I was doing the things I was doing. However, if I had done it the opposite way, I would have come in with a lot more base knowledge.


SO THE ET PROGRAM THAT YOU’RE IN AT PASCO HERNANDO HAS BEEN DIRECTLY RELEVANT RATHER THAN THE ENGINEERING PROGRAM AT RIVER RIDGE OR THROUGH THE MECHANICAL ENGINEERING THAT YOU STARTED WITH AT USF?

Yes, it very much is teaching me the background of my job. The Engineering program at River Ridge – it tried to teach you a lot of the information, but the biggest thing I got out of that was more how to approach problems, how to think like an engineer as opposed to how people normally approach problem-solving. Because of that, when I got into the ET classes, I was already in the mindset that I needed to be in order to approach the problems the correct way. And Mechanical Engineering – most of the reason I got out of that is because it was over qualifying me for what I wanted to do. I had decided that I didn’t actually want to be a mechanical engineer, so it was teaching me a lot of stuff I just wasn’t going to use.

ONCE YOU GOT INTO THE ENGINEERING PROGRAM AT RIVER RIDGE, WERE YOU ALREADY LEANING TOWARDS A CAREER IN MANUFACTURING OR WAS IT REALLY THE MANUFACTURING DAY EXPERIENCE THAT CEMENTED THAT?

100% it was the Manufacturing Day that cemented it in. I was kind of leaning, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Engineering was an interesting thing to me at that point, but it was an elective I was taking one period a day. It wasn’t until I started learning more about it through taking the tours of different manufacturing places and getting this job at SMT that really cemented it into my head that this is what I want to do.

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU LOVE IT.

Oh yes. I routinely tell people when they see me stressed about my job, “I’m stressed because some of the people that I work with, as you will be anywhere you work, but I absolutely love what I do.”

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE CAREER PLANS?

I’m hoping to stay with SMT. I want to move up within Quality Assurance. I found out that I very much enjoy solving problems and that’s a lot of what Quality Assurance is. You get parts and you’ve got to find out if they’re good or not. If they’re kind of marginal, you’ve got to go through all the processes to figure out why they might be good, why they might not be good, pull up all the specs. It’s very much a problem-solving process and I really like that. You’re always doing different parts, different dimensions, it’s never the actual same thing over and over again. And I really like that.

SO YOU ENDED UP IN A JOB YOU LOVE WHERE YOU CAN JUST WORK YOUR WAY UP WITHIN THE SAME FIELD?

Exactly.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND A MANUFACTURING DAY TOUR TO OTHER STUDENTS?

Oh yes, whole heartedly.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR STUDENTS GOING ON THEIR FIRST TOUR ON WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHILE THEY’RE ON THE TOUR?

Keep in open mind. Because a lot of kids that age aren’t really thinking about 30 years down the line. They’re very much “Ew, that doesn’t look fun.” Maybe it doesn’t look fun, but it’s fun once you get in there and start doing it. So, keep an open mind, look at what’s going on around you and just figure out what you want to do.

CNC Rocks Virtual Manufacturing Camp Video's now Available All Year


From Terry Iverson, President/Owner Iverson & Company (https://iversonandco.com/) and past Chairperson of FLATE’s National Visiting Committee.

After producing a live CNC manufacturing camp in Jacksonville, Florida before the pandemic, I felt inspired to do more to help young people understand the excitement of making things and careers possible in manufacturing. During the COVID19 pandemic all the CTE community struggled with home-based and remote learning instruction. With the thought of costs of shipping machines around the country, and the need for more virtual content I decided to embark on producing videos that could be used to augment CTE, Project Lead the Way and STEM curriculum. The initiative began by filming basic manufacturing and engineering concepts to simply expose those who just do not know of the connections between manufacturing and engineering and the relevance in the products we use in our everyday lives.

The videos are categorized into three sections: beginner, intermediate and advanced. This allows the viewer to gradually build from one section to the other.  Schools can subscribe annually for $500 to use what now has grown to over 22 videos and over a total of 4 hours. Interested in the videos? A school district can purchase a district-wide license for $1,500 and a company can do the same for $1,000.00.  

Watch the Sample video and learn more: https://championnow.org/product/cnc-rocks-virtual-manufacturing-camp/ or contact Terry Iverson, tiverson@iversonandco.com.








MFG Month Exposes Students to Manufacturing Careers


MFG Day is a worldwide initiative, launched every year on the 1st Friday in October, with events to promote great careers in manufacturing to students!  In Florida, it empowers manufacturers and educators to come together to address Florida’s manufacturing workforce challenges.   By highlighting what modern manufacturing looks like as well as the many, high-wage careers available, we can help our Florida communities and future generations thrive. 

By opening their doors (virtually or in-person) to students and teachers during Manufacturing Day and Month, manufacturers can address the myths that the new generation has grown up believing by showing real life examples of manufacturing taking place! Many believe the misconceptions that the manufacturing working environment is subpar, doesn’t pay well or “requires you to be a master in STEM subjects”, contributing to the ongoing shortage of high skilled workers.  

The goal in Florida is to share the reality of modern manufacturing careers by encouraging companies around the state to provide students, parents, teachers and community leaders with a behind-the-scenes look at their facilities.

Planning

School districts and educators can help to inspire the future manufacturing workforce by planning student experiences during MFG Month or at any time during the year. Educators, school counselors and parents serve as key decision-makers in helping students make educational and career choices and can also help students strike a connection between STEM-based subjects/concepts and how they are applied in real-world settings.

Every manufacturer that hosts a virtual or in person student and educator events helps to showcase the cool high-tech technologies, distinctive products and amazing careers in manufacturing.

Ready to host or take a tour? The first step is to contact your MFG Month coordinator. Click here to find the contact person for your region.

Resources

FLATE has developed a comprehensive marketing toolkit to help promote Manufacturing Day and Month on a local/regional level as well as an extensive portfolio of STEM-based resources.

  • FLATE Guide: Best Practices for Industry Tours - a step-by-step guide for planning an impactful student tour whether you are a host or a teacher
  • 'Get Ready for MFG Month' webinars on demand for industry hosts and educators
  • FLATE lesson plans, organized by grade level
  • “What is Manufacturing” - introduction to manufacturing flyer and presentation
  • MFG Month promotional graphics: posters, logos, flyers and presentations

To access these resources, visit www.madeinflorida.org/manufacturing-day

Tracking Results

FLATE surveys of students, educators and industry hosts after MFG Month tours show the impact of industry tours on students and allows manufacturers to understand how they can make a larger impact.

Student surveys show:

  • An 80% increase in consideration of a career in advanced manufacturing after the tour
  • 96% learned about new technologies used in advanced manufacturing industries
  • 96% became more aware of new information about careers and manufacturing jobs available in their community
  • 96% would recommend that other students have the opportunity to participate in MFG Day/Month

Industry Host survey responses:

  • 100% state that the tour was a good use of company time and resources
  • 58.8% stated five or more employees participated in hosting the tour
  • 68.8% stated they have hired students as interns and employees

Educator survey responses:

  • Approximately 98% stated that the tour helped them see how STEM subjects learned in school are put to work in high-tech industries.
  • 100% stated they would promote a career in advanced manufacturing to students. 
  • 100% also stated they would recommend other students have the opportunity of an industry tour. 
  • 100% also stated that they found the tour helpful in expanding their understanding of high-tech jobs and career opportunities in Florida.

What do Industry hosts, Educators and Students Say about MFG Month Tours?

       “Always worth giving back to the community and investing in the next generation. This tour was especially a good use due to the relevance of the class’s subject matter to our industry,” (Host)

       “These kinds of events change lives . . . doors are opened that these students have never walked through before and today some REALLY liked what they saw inside.” (Educator)   

'Loved the tour! Information was excellent and you could see the kids really thinking and enjoying. I even had a few tell me that this kind of work sounded way more interesting than they originally thought it would! (Educator)

       “I really like that you don’t need a college degree to work there and I also liked that the company itself gives classes and an opportunity to further careers.” (Student)

“I I liked being able to see a real working environment and what they get to do every day the people were very nice and they explained everything very well. Thank you.” (Student)

FLATE and FloridaMakes have partnered with manufacturers and educators across the state to celebrate MFG Day and Month every October since 2012.  Manufacturing Day and Month continues to make a tremendous impact in sparking awareness about STEM-related educational/career pathways in manufacturing. 

If you have questions or would like to share how your region coordinates Manufacturing Day and Month, contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at marilyn.barger@flate.org.


Professor Brian Bell Discusses the new Biomedical Engineering Technology program at St. Petersburg College

The A.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering Technology is a new program currently offered at St. Petersburg College (SPC) in St. Petersburg, FL. Historically focused on electronics and troubleshooting, the program has evolved to include training in medical device networking, medical device security and medical device manufacturing. FLATE reached out Brian Bell, lead faculty for the A.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering Technology at SPC to learn about the program and how it is targeted to help meet workforce demands for biomedical engineering technicians. For more information about the program visit https://bit.ly/2PVOJVm, or contact Professor Brian Bell.
 
INTERVIEW WITH PROFESSOR BRIAN BELL

WHAT IS THE FOCUS OF THE PROGRAM? Students learn to repair, maintain, and manage medical technology.

HOW MANY CREDITS? 60 credits for the A.S. degree.

WHAT KIND OF SKILLS CAN STUDENTS DEVELOP AFTER GRADUATING FROM THE PROGRAM?

Students will learn electronics troubleshooting, computer repair, how to properly use and test medical technology – infusion pump performance testing, x-ray calibration, patient monitor alarm testing.

IS THERE A HANDS-ON COMPONENT TO THE PROGRAM?

Students work with infusion pumps, patient monitors, x-rays units, anesthesia units, oxygen concentrators, vital signs simulators, computer hardware and electronic testing equipment.


WHAT ACADEMIC PATHWAY DO STUDENTS PURSUE AFTER COMPLETING THE PROGRAM?

Students can work for healthcare organizations, original equipment manufactures, and third-party service providers. Students can work at a hospital or do field service and work all over the country specializing in specific devices.

IS THE PROGRAM TIED TO ANY INDUSTRY CERTIFICATION(S)?

The program is tied to the CBET – certified biomedical equipment technician program.

HOW DOES THE PROGRAM SERVE LOCAL INDUSTRY NEEDS?

The program provides a sustainable pipeline of talent for employers.

WHAT IS THE JOB OUTLOOK FOR GRADUATES OF THE PROGRAM?

The outlook for graduates looks great. We have a lot of opportunities in the area as medical technology continues to grow. Also, Pinellas County is home to several global and national medical device manufacturing companies and growing healthcare systems.

DO YOU PARTNER WITH ANY COMPANIES THAT DIRECTLY HIRE GRADUATES?

We certainly partner with local companies that contact me prior to opening their general hiring. Some of the companies hire graduates and host work experience, while others visit our programs and give presentations (including technical training prior to COVID). We have toured facilities such as Baycare, Mercury Medical. Other examples of companies that we currently partner with and/or serve on our current advisory board include: BayCare Health System, Mercury Medical, Concise Engineering, United Biomedical Services, Intertape polymer group, EyeKon, and Designs for the World. Additionally, Carlos Villafane one of our instructors is president of the Bay Area Association of Medical Instrumentation (BAAMI) and our students are invited to participate in chapter meetings and trainings. 

ARE THERE PROGRAMS IN THE STATE/COUNTY THAT ARE SIMILAR TO WHAT YOU ARE OFFERING AT ST. PETERSBURG COLLEGE?

There are a few, but in general there are very few academic programs in this field. The following either offer similar programs and/or at least a certificate. These include:
  • Florida State College at Jacksonville, Jacksonville, FL
  • Sante Fe College, Gainesville, FL
  • Miami Dade College, Miami, FL
  • Fort Myers Technical College, Fort Myers, FL
SPC also has articulation agreements that transfer into a fully online 4-year degree in Healthcare Technology Management at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis. We are glad to give students that opportunity through an articulation agreement.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE STUDENTS GAIN FROM THE PROGRAM?

As the field is constantly changing, I hope students have the confidence to work with and learn about medical technology. I also hope they develop the ability to learn how to manage, test and repair new technology.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT TEACHING THIS PROGRAM?

I get to use engineering skills in a way that directly affects patient care. Also, there are always new devices being developed and consequently new things to learn.

HOW DO YOU EMPHASIZE/TEACH EMPLOYABILITY SKILLS?

During the program, students are engaged in multiple activities that include working on projects with other students, getting evaluated by industry supervisors during work experience, performing formal technical presentations in front of an audience, setting up mock interviews prior to graduation and creating digital portfolios to showcase what they have done. Students are also encouraged to use social media to market their learned skills and achievements.

  • FOR MORE INFORMATION:


St. Petersburg College BMET Program Links

Engineering Technology for Healthcare Youtube Channel

Gain access to free biomedical engineering technology educational content

Gain access to free medical device networking and cybersecurity content