FLATE Ambassador Outreach Initiative--A First Hand, Behind-The-Scenes Look!

FLATE’s ambassadors are one of those behind the scenes people who play a pivotal role in raising awareness about FLATE’s state-of-the-art educational/professional development initiatives designed to promote excellence in high-tech manufacturing. You may not have spotted a FLATE ambassador at a regular FLATE event, but you might have run into them at a career fair, or spotted them at a local industry tour. FLATE’s ambassadors may not fit into the traditional corporate mould, but you will soon find out, they are equipped with a wealth of educational and professional resources.
Meet Sarah Lefils. Sara is a University of Florida graduate, with a degree in telecommunications. She is the wife of a peanut farmer and the mother of two children: James, age 6 and Rebecca, age 4.  The majority of her professional career has been as a preschool director at O2B Kids in Gainesville, Florida. She attained her child development associate’s certificate and director’s credential shortly after graduating from college. Sara began working for the College of Central Florida in the fall of 2010 as the “Career Pathways Coordinator” where she was also introduced to the role of a FLATE ambassador. Within this role, Sara visits all public high schools within the tri-county area (Marion, Citrus, and Levy) to speak about career and educational opportunities in the manufacturing field.
Over the course of two years, Sara has been working with 16 high schools in the region. She has successfully reached out to 2500-3500 students and about 350 adults, or staff comprising of teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, task force members, industry leaders, college advisors. Sara uses different videos and stories to keep students engaged and inspired with job ideas they may not have known even existed. Sara’s video presentations include everything from the FLATE video, to a quick bit on 3-D printers, to the life story of Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe. To create a hook and get students interested in STEM and manufacturing, Sarah suggests highlighting real success stories. She also likes the idea of having small brochure/handouts that highlight an individual’s occupation, the training involved in securing such a position, where the jobs/businesses are located in Florida for that position, and their potential salaries. “While the videos show real people, I think having people share where they came from, where they are now, and how they got there would make more of a lasting impression on some kids.” She points to FLATE’s postcard, handout and video as an effective tool in getting students excited about manufacturing, and FLATER as a popular item—one that peeks students’ curiosity.
Sara also attends school functions like job fairs, or college fairs to showcase FLATE’s resource to teachers, parents, and students. To stay connected with local educators, Sara attends Marion Technical Institute task force meetings each month which gives her ample material to educate students about local opportunities. An additional dimension to her position is providing field trips. Over the past year Sara facilitated three field trips. One of which entailed Marion and Citrus County drafting students travelling to College of Central Florida to attend an open house for the college’s new engineering lab. She has special field trips planned next year for a group of 30 high school juniors at North Marion High School. Students are expected to tour E-One, Quality Banner, SPX and Trademark Metals Recycling. Her partnership with local industry has enabled her to visit SPX Flow Technology, Quality Banner Company, Phillips Printing, E-One, Southeastern Freight Lines and Forest High School’s EMIT program.

For information about FLATE’s ambassador program, or to coordinate a “Made in Florida” industry tour for students in your area contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org. To assist/enhance Sara’s outreach efforts in the Marion, Citrus, and Levy tri county region, or to partner with Marion Regional Manufacturers Association contact Sara at lefils@cf.edu.

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