Manufacturers Mixer Offers an Innovative Approach to Finding Fresh Talent

The writing is on the wall. Manufacturers here in Florida and across the nation are constantly
on the lookout to find skilled workers. Recent headlines are increasing focus on the aging workforce and its overall impact on the manufacturing industry. Given this ongoing quest to recruit and retain fresh talent, Kelly Engineering Resources here in the Tampa Bay region recently came up with an innovative approach to possibly build a crosswalk between potential hires looking for jobs and manufacturers looking to fill new positions. Dubbed the “Kelly Intern Mixer” by Kelly Services, a national workforce and staffing solutions company, the model mimics many “speed dating” shows that infest primetime television of late. Nevertheless, the event provided a new approach to finding fresh talent for local manufacturers here in the Tampa Bay area.

The Intern Mixer was attended by 17 local manufacturers and manufacturing organizations, and attracted approximately 75 students, mainly graduates and soon-to-be graduate students, from the University of South Florida (USF), USF Polytechnic in Lakeland, Hillsborough Community College, Pasco Hernando State College, St. Petersburg College, University of Central Florida, and even engineering students at Middleton High School. FLATE Principal Investigators, Dr. Marilyn Barger and Dr. Richard Gilbert were also present at the event, and got to meet local students face-to-face to provide insight about the A.S. degree in engineering technology, and the educational and career pathways available to them once they graduate from college. “It’s a simple format” said James Shedden, Engineering Products Manager at Kelly Engineering Resources in Tampa. The event is hosted twice a year, in Fall and Spring, and is sponsored by professional engineering organizations and represents a cohesive partnership between Kelly Engineering Resources and organizations like ASME, IEEE and SME.

The lightning round of the event focused on manufacturers meeting one-on-one with a student
to provide an overview of the company and a profile of jobs available to them that matches their skills set. The students in turn got to meet manufacturers/potential employees face-to-face, network with them, and get a first-hand perspective on real-world jobs and skills that employers and manufacturers are looking for once they graduate, or they could focus their attention on while in school. “Sometimes the discussions culminate into a job/internship offer and each year we have two-four job offers” said Shedden, but the overarching idea is for students to network with industry professionals.

Metrics for success were gauged not only by strength in attendance, but also by the “quality
time” each student got to spend with each manufacturer. “It’s not a job fair” said Shedden, rather it’s more intimate whereby every manufacturer gets to meet and talk with four students individually. The biggest takeaway for students was the opportunity to meet industry professionals who have a stake in the engineering community, and want to give a hands-up to engineering students as they seek to pursue/complete their engineering degree. “Our hope is that industry and students alike saw the value of networking…as there are surprising number of engineering students who are still un/underemployed, and getting their first job offer is vital to their success” Shedden said. He also looks forward to building inroads with organizations like FLATE and Hillsborough Community College’s engineering technology program in leveraging the effectiveness of Kelly’s Engineering Future’s Project that matches recent and underemployed engineering graduates with local manufacturers. “Many of our customers are looking to hire someone with hands-on experience” said Shedden. To that effect, he sees a promising opportunity to work with FLATE and the Engineering Program at HCC in hiring ET graduates…a win-win situation for students and prospective employees/manufacturers.

For more information on Kelly Engineering Resources contact Engineering Products Manager, James Shedden at For a portfolio of FLATE’s industry-education partnership resources refer to the FLATE Partnership Best Practices Guide at, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE at

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