Student Feedback from Manufacturing Day 2014 Shows Huge Impact

Since 2005, the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence (FLATE) has facilitated close to 400 tours to 234 high-tech, manufacturing facilities throughout Florida, for 
over 10,000 students, and almost 1,000 educators and parents. These tours provide students, teachers and parents with the opportunity to have their eyes opened to the exciting and lucrative world of manufacturing and the many, varied careers the industry offers. One of FLATE’s goals has been to provide students with exposure to real Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) workplaces, primarily those in manufacturing. Students are surveyed after the tours so data can be gathered to discover what the students experienced from their own point of view and to help streamline and improve tours in the future.

Backgrounder on MFG Day
Manufacturing Day 2014 was the second annual year FLATE coordinated statewide events on Manufacturing Day/Month. FLATE worked with partners and collaborators around the state including a number of Manufacturers Associations, Colleges, Workforce Organizations and Florida 
TRADE consortium. It was a fantastic success and did much to place Florida firmly on the national manufacturing map. More than 3,000 students from 39 counties toured 88 facilities across Florida.

The inaugural National Manufacturing Day was held on Oct. 3, 2012, and has continued to grow every year. The event is supported by a group of industry sponsors and co-producers and strives to improve the manufacturing industry’s image problem while at the same giving manufacturers a chance come together and voice concerns associated with training and recruiting future industry employees.

Many still believe that manufacturing consists of crowds of workers counting widgets in dirty, run-down factories for little compensation – a far cry from current reality! As a result many parents and schools do not encourage their kids/students to pursue manufacturing careers, resulting in a complete lack of understanding, awareness and interest among the next generation of workers. All this at a time when the shortage of skilled workers continues to increase rapidly and the need is greater than ever. People don’t realize that careers in the world of modern manufacturing provide opportunities to do life-saving work, put men on Mars, and are high-tech, highly-skilled, rewarding and lucrative.

By giving manufacturers the opportunity to show tour participants first-hand, what the real-life world of modern manufacturing looks like, these widely-held misconceptions about manufacturing can be eliminated in a highly effective way. Students are also exposed to some of the challenging and exciting careers available in the manufacturing industry and manufacturers are able to address the prevalent skilled labor shortage that the industry and their companies are facing.

FLATE’s MFG Day Strategy in Florida & Impact
FLATE has developed and implemented processes for organizing and deploying effective student tours of manufacturing facilities and determining the impact they have on students and educators. Data collected includes anecdotal evidence based on feedback from students, industry hosts, staff, and teachers as well as aggregated survey results from eight years of student tours of manufacturing facilities. Survey data collected from 2014 Manufacturing Day student tour surveys was analyzed and is illustrated in the table below.

Pre & Post Tour Feedback/Analysis
Before going on the tour, 46% of the students had never considered a career in manufacturing, 60% said that the tour made them think about careers in advanced manufacturing and student data indicated that over half (55%) were now considering a career in the field. Eighty-one percent of students reported that they learned about technologies used in today’s advanced manufacturing industries and 74% of students felt that the tour help them understand how STEM subjects they learn in school are put to work in advanced manufacturing industries. These are significant findings and provide strong evidence to reinforce that fact that manufacturing facility tours are an invaluable and significant tool to help dispel misconceptions about what today’s manufacturing industry really looks like, and the exciting, high tech and high wage careers it offers.

In addition, this year’s analysis was conducted with an added emphasis on parsing out “themes” of student feedback to the question: “What did you like most about the tour?” These are shown in the table below along with some examples of comments in the different theme categories.

This student feedback is hugely powerful and details the great depth of impact these tours had on the participants. Students took the time to give detailed feedback about what the tour experience meant to them. Findings overwhelmingly support the importance of exposure to real-world work environments
and real people doing real jobs for the next generation manufacturing workforce. Educators were also significantly impacted and articulated that the tours gave them a deeper insight into today’s manufacturing industry and the careers it has to offer their students, as well as helping them to integrate STEM throughout their curriculum materials. Manufacturers expressed that industry tours provided a highly effective way to aid in educating and/or creating a talent pool for a future workforce. They expressed that the tours as served as a conduit between manufacturers and local educational facilities opening a pathway for partnership which “could lead to future internships and employees”.

Clearly tour experiences are a “win-win-win” for students, educators and manufacturers and are invaluable in contributing to the goal of creating a new and positive image of modern manufacturing – one based in reality rather than widely-held stereotypes. It is hugely gratifying to read students’ feedback relating to how the tour impacted their view of manufacturing, “It was very informative on manufacturing it made me consider a career in manufacturing”, “The factory was clean and looked like others can be a good opportunity to work with a good company”, “I liked how we were actually allowed to walk around and see how a lot of the machines work. I also thought how we were allowed to see how much they actually earn, because in all honesty, people don’t really think they make much and this put a whole new perspective in my eyes”.

Tours should be central components of secondary and post-secondary manufacturing and technical courses and
programs. Educators can easily integrate tour experiences into their classroom curriculum with a little assistance from the industry tour host. Tours can be tailored so that they align well with student learning objectives. They effectively aid educators in the integration of technology and engineering into mainstream and STEM course objectives. They provide students with the opportunity to see real-life examples of what they have learned in the classroom translated into actual practice in a manufacturing facility (Survey data from 2014 Manufacturing Day tours indicated that 74% of students felt that the tour help them understand how STEM subjects they learn in school are put to work in advanced manufacturing industries). Tours can “spark” students’ interest and lead to them considering a future career in the manufacturing industry - student feedback reinforces this: I liked that I got to learn more about manufacturing and machinery. It taught me about new opportunities”, “I would like to apply here when I turn 18”, “The show of the company was very cool and I might want to intern here”.

Planning for this year’s Manufacturing Day is already well underway. FLATE is working hard to grow participation as well as increasing the impact of tour experiences by working closely with teachers pre-tour to make sure they are comfortable using the pre-tour lesson plans and associated activities provided to them. Teachers and parents accompanying students on tours will also be surveyed as these individuals are instrumental in providing accurate and up-to-date information about what the manufacturing industry has to offer their students/children. To extend the scope and deepen the impact of the tour experience, teachers will be encouraged to have a debriefing discussion with their students post-tour, as well as utilizing follow-up lesson plans and activities. Additional efforts will focus on adding new tour locations and increasing student participation through regional organizational partnerships.

As the critical need for a skilled manufacturing workforce increases at an alarming rate, it is essential that educators, parents and manufacturers work together as one, to raise awareness and to promote advanced manufacturing and the wealth of incredible careers it has to offer. Manufacturing industry tours are a proven and highly effective tool for achieving these goals. For more information on MFG Day 2015 visit and .

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