From the Executive Director’s Desk: A Focus on Manufacturing Ecosystem in Florida

The manufacturing workforce is a complex network of interconnected systems. Producing that workforce is just one of many complicated subsystems. Four important components of this workforce development subsystem are:
  • work-based learning
  • internships and apprenticeships 
  • skill certification
  • talent pipeline development
Successful workforce development requires detailed attention to these components of the “talent pool pathway” for manufacturing’s workforce.

Florida’s approach to its manufacturing “talent pool pathway” is to first identify key organizations that can and should participate in this “pathway”. Like in other states, these organizations historically have worked independently in Florida, each paying attention to only selective components of the “talent pool pathway” (the components that are in their own wheelhouse). The challenge is to develop ways to remove this silo effect. In Florida, the responsibilities associated with these immediate foundation “talent pool pathway” duties have been clustered into the Florida University System, the Florida College System, the Workforce Agency and the Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Service (MEP). Developing an ecosystem environment that houses the manufacturing workforce development elements of these groups is one approach that can morph the silo effect to a synergistic and thriving ecosystem.

The starting transition point for such an evolution is to superposition the four groups together in an innovative space that defines manufacturing workforce development fundamentally containing the four important items above (work-based learning, credentials, internships and apprenticeships, and talent pipeline development).

Initial members of Florida’s manufacturing workforce development ecosystem are FLATE (working for the Florida College System); CareerSource (Florida’s workforce agency) FloridaMakes (Florida’s MEP); and Innovation Station Sarasota (working for the Florida University System). Preliminary meetings with leadership of these four organizations resulted in enthusiastic support for the ecosystem concept. The group determined that the secondary education system was a primary target audience. Essential building blocks for workforce creation include: creation of high school manufacturing academies; face-to-face exposure of secondary students to advanced manufacturing facilities; and relevant professional development of educators about manufacturing skills and careers. They also committed to work together to define specific goals for manufacturing talent development and manufacturing education excellence. Stay tuned for more details in the next FLATE Focus.

I now invite you to read the rest of the stories in the February Edition of FLATE Focus. This month we have an industry spotlight focusing on Nautique, as well as several new exciting additions to the Announcements section of this blog. Please send us your thoughts by emailing or commenting below each story in this blog. Also, please connect with us via social media on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

IAC Successes and Planning for Future Internships

The most recent FLATE Industrial Advisory Committee (IAC) meeting on Thursday, January 19 at Pinellas Technical College’s (PTEC) Clearwater campus was a huge success. The evening began with a tour showcasing the manufacturing programs offered at PTEC, including machining and welding. The tour was led by Assistant Director, Eric McClendon. In some labs, the attendees were able to see students working on projects. The students were able to show off their skills, and express their joy about the program and the ability to gain expertise. The students also stated that they realized just how much these programs will benefit their future careers.

After the tour, the main event began with a panel discussion led by Brad Jenkins, co-principal investigator of FLATE, and Ken Jones, Economic Development Manager for Hillsborough County. This panel focused on debating the pros and cons of internships. The panel provided an open forum for professionals from several different organizations to discuss what it really means to host an intern, and what benefits will come from it.

The entire panel, as well as some meeting attendees, agreed that the benefits of having an intern are supreme for both the company and the intern. On the business side of things, hosting an intern is one of the most profitable things you can do for your company. For the student, the internship offers hands-on experience that can be applied to their real life and future careers post-graduation. 

Internships and apprenticeships are usually paid, part-time positions. An additional benefit of internships is that there are many different options of shifts to work because many companies operate throughout the day, and into the night, seven days a week. The many options of hours and shifts allows the student to create a schedule that will be flexible with their lifestyle and accommodate their school schedule.

Students who are currently in internships and apprenticeships were also able to join in the discussion. They stated that the work experience they are gaining from these positions make them feel more qualified and confident as they pursue their careers. In some cases, interning gives them a step up against the competition from other students entering the field. At the end of the evening, the consensus was clear; internships have a positive impact on both the student and the company.

Furthermore, congratulations to the new IAC Chair, Peter Cirak, on successfully hosting his first meeting! Be sure to mark your calendars and join us for the next IAC meeting at the College of Central Florida on Thursday, May 18. For more information about FLATE IAC meetings, please visit our webpage by clicking here, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE at

Nominate a Manufacturer

FloridaMakes is working with the Florida Sterling Council on the newly launched Florida Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Award – designed to recognize and support high-performing Florida manufacturing companies, and offer a framework for sharing manufacturing best practices.

All manufacturers with production facilities in Florida are eligible for this award. It is not necessary to be a member of any association. It’s easy to make a nomination – and self-nominations are encouraged! For all instructions on how to submit a nomination please Click here. If you have any questions you can contact Phil Centonze at

FLATE is also accepting nominations for the 2017 FLATE Awards. For more information on the awards, please contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE at You can also Click here to read a previous FLATE Focus article about the 2017 FLATE Awards, and visit FLATE’s award page here.

Robotics Education and Competition Foundation seeks to engage more children in STEM

The Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation is extremely invested in encouraging more students to become involved in STEM- education based on science, engineering, technology, and math. The REC Foundation offers many great resources for teachers and schools. REC manages the largest middle school and high school robotics STEM programs, with exponentially growing elementary and university programs. The REC Foundation has over 20,000 teams expected to participate this season in all 50 states and 40 other countries. Florida in particular has 730 teams. There have been 74 VEX robotic competitions this season, including the upcoming VEX Robotics’ State Championships on Friday, Feb. 17. Matt Conroy, South East Regional Support Manager from the REC Foundation, stated that in order to “expand STEM in Florida through our programs, we must get the word out about our opportunities and engage schools and teachers into our competitions. Once the kids and teachers get a chance to compete, they all see the excitement of the students and are hooked.” 

The REC Foundation offers affordable STEM platforms at all grade levels, plus start up grants available each season from many sponsors like NASA, Harris, Northrop Grumman and more. These are individual school and teacher grants plus a REC Foundation and NASA District wide grant for elementary through high school teams in all schools. Several districts in Florida are learning and applying now for these, with several districts having won the grants already.

Additionally, The REC Foundation provides free curricula and standards mapping to assist elementary through high school teachers and help infuse STEM and robotics into their programs. By its nature, the study of competitive robotics not only encompasses all four pillars of STEM education, but also encourages important skills like teamwork, communication, and project-based organization. The REC Foundation exists to bring this exciting field to students all over the globe. “STEM programs provide our students with the connection of their academic studies to real hands on tangible problems to find real world solutions. Students see the relevance of academics and its applicability and relevance ‘in action’. When students are engaged in these connections, it excites students and gives them a renewed purpose to excel in all of their courses,” said Conroy.

“It is our goal to inspire students to pursue STEM degrees and careers,” said Conroy. He continued saying that “VEX Robotics STEM activities and programs develop the in demand skills required in the workplace for solving problems, team work, and communications skills. The programs also provide specific skill training and the opportunity to explore a number of career and continued education opportunities towards students’ advanced degrees. This allows students to make educated decisions regarding their futures. STEM careers are among the highest salaries and most demand careers in the world.”

For any questions about how to start a team for your STEM program or how to host events at your school, please contact Matt Conroy, South East Regional Support Manager, via phone (321) 257-8263 or email

For more information on FLATE's STEM programs, please visit FLATE will be hosting several robotics camps this summer. To sign up, please visit FLATE's summer camp webpage here.

sTEm-at-Work Puzzle #58: Signal Analysis for a 3D Printer Inductive Leveling Sensor

A technician is part of a team that is installing a 3D printer that has an automatic leveling system that uses an inductive sensor to make the level measurements. The team is having trouble getting the printer level and the technician suspects the inductive sensor is not functioning properly. The tech uses a computer based oscilloscope to measure the voltage and current output signals from the sensor while the printer is executing the leveling process. That data is shown below. Plot Legends indicate that the red dotted curve represents the current and the blue curve the voltage signal. The Tech knows that an inductor based sensor always shifts the voltage signal out of phase with the current signal; the voltage leads the current. 

Does the technician think that the Inductive Sensor is functioning correctly?

Yes or No?

Submit your answers below this blog post, or at 

Industry Spotlight: Nautique

Special thanks to Nautique for hosting FLATE’s 13th Annual National Visiting Committee on Thursday, February 2, and for providing a spectacular tour of their production facility. Nautique’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility covers approximately 270,000 square feet. The FLATE team and members of the NVC were able to witness all stages of the manufacturing process, which starts with molding and ends with testing the boats on one of the two on-site test lakes. On average, Nautique produces 11 boats per day.

Nautique’s world headquarters is located in Orlando and is owned by parent company Correct Craft. Founded in 1925, Correct Craft is a Florida-based company with global operations. Correct Craft is known for both excellence in the marine industry and its caring company culture. It’s clear to see why Correct Craft was named Manufacturer of the Year by the Manufacturers Association of Central Florida in 2010.

Fun Fact about Correct Craft: During World War II, General Eisenhower requested that the company build approximately 400 boats in 15 days. While this number is far more boats than the company had ever produced in such a short time period, Correct Craft was able to develop an innovative production process which allowed the factory to produce 400 boats in record time. This event was called “A Miracle Production” by National Geographic, and solidified the company’s reputation as being a reliable and quality boat manufacturer. 

For more information about Nautique, please click here to visit their website, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE at

Machining Updates

Gene Haas Foundation Scholarship Donation for Precision and CNC Machining Program at Suncoast Technical College- Florida

Congratulations to Suncoast Technical College (STC) on receiving a donation from the Gene Haas Foundation! These funds will be used to create a scholarship at the college’s Precision and CNC Machining Program. STC stated that the scholarship “will be put towards any deserving apprentice who may need financial help to attend our award winning program.”

STC has been offering their Precision and CNC Machining Program for four years. After the completion of this current year, the college will have produced 88 machinists. The program offers day and night courses, and this year added a MasterCam University Certification Course to be offered in the evening. STC has produced 23% of all the NIMS credentials for Florida. STC also hosted the first HTEC CNC Machining Educators Conference in 2016.

“We are very pleased to have chosen the best equipment and educational support from Haas Automation,” a representative from STC stated. “We will continue to help the needs of Florida with more trained and skilled CNC Machinists.”

For more information, please click here to view STC's website, or contact Ed Doherty at

The Gene Haas Foundation also presented a similar scholarship donation to students at the Atlantic Technical Center in 2016. These students planned to continue studying mechanical engineering at prestigious schools, such as MIT. Kevin Finan,the recipient of the 2016 FLATE Secondary Educator Award, is an instructor at Atlantic Technical Center.

South Florida Machinist Apprenticeship Program Graduation

Congratulations to the nine graduates from the South Florida Machinist Apprenticeship Program. This is the 4th graduating class of this program. The South Florida Machinist Apprenticeship Program has had 30 apprentices graduate to date, and there are 25 students currently in the program. The program now includes NIMS Certifications and articulation agreements with Broward College for all graduates.

If you are interested in finding out more about the South Florida Machinist Apprenticeship Program, please click here to view their website or call Dennis Battistella, Program Coordinator, at (954) 292-0040.

Science Olympiad at HCC Brandon

FLATE supports many STEM based initiatives. This past Saturday, February 4, Hillsborough Community College’s Brandon Campus hosted a Science Olympiad. This Olympiad lines up with FLATE's mission to get more children involved in STEM. The Olympiad had a tremendous turnout of over 500 children. The children competed in teams, and there were 22 middle school teams and 25 high school teams. The Olympiad offered several different events that challenged the students in a variety of ways.

Some events required planning prior to the Olympiad. An example of this is the Hovercraft event where a hovercraft was built prior to the event and brought to the Olympiad completed. After bringing their completed hovercraft to the Olympiad, the students had to test to see if their hovercraft functioned properly. The event also included a written test with physics questions. 

There were also events where students got no prior planning and completed the whole project during the event. One example of this type of event is Game On, where students had to build a video game on the spot. Another example is Forensics, where the students were given evidence and performed chemistry tests on the evidence to uncover “who done it”.

This Olympiad was the fourth one hosted by Regional Director Dr. Scott Behrens. Dr. Behrens and Tiffany Marshall were the masterminds behind this Olympiad, and were in charge of coordinating and supervising the events, accommodating the students, and communicating with the coaches.

Dr. Behrens said his favorite part of the Olympiad was “the excitement at the awards ceremony, and to just see the kids’ faces of accomplishment after working so hard all year.” Marshall said the highlight of this Olympiad was a new social media based award this year, called the Spirit Award. “It gives the students who may not have performed so well at the events the opportunity to still be seen and recognized,” Marshall said. 

For more information on the Science Olympiad, please visit their webpage here. For more information on FLATE's STEM programs, please visit and, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE at