From the Executive Director's Desk: #MFGDay17 is ON

Wow – As of today, May 3, we have just 156 days, or 23 weeks, or 5 months until Manufacturing Day/Month 2017! We still have the end of spring, all of summer and start the fall season. But MFG DAY is such a big event in Florida, we all know that now is the time to start planning for 2017 events. There are many MFG DAY/Month events in Florida, but the focus today, and for FLATE and its network of statewide partners has and will always be on student industry tours. In looking back post manufacturing day/month data, MFG DAY/Month in Florida has experienced exponential growth, both in the number of tours and statewide uptick in participating and enthusiasm to participate in this national event that celebrates the spirit of innovation and excellence in American manufacturing/manufacturers. Even last year, when Hurricane Matthew’s unscheduled visit to Florida last on October 2 closed nearly 80% of the schools in Florida, most tours were re-scheduled and more students and educators than ever experienced manufacturing first hand across Florida.

FLATE’s statewide MFG DAY/Month efforts began in 2013 when we developed the “recipe, a streamlined strategy and targeted techniques” that outlined an approach to organizing regional student tours for middle and high school students to high-tech manufacturing
facilities across the state. We had been doing industry tours for students for several years and had documented a significant impact on students. FLATE’s strategy for conducting Manufacturing Day tours on a single day was geared to amplify the effort, the effect, and the impact of industry tours on ALL participants, and also increase exposure and excitement in Manufacturing/STEM related opportunities in the community. FLATE started with the idea that we wanted LOTS of student tours on the first Friday of October (MFG DAY) and planned to schedule others on different days to accommodate companies and schools. We understand industry tours are challenging to set up, execute and assess. Looking at the challenges, we developed the techniques to address some of the most challenging obstacles. Here is the list we brainstormed:
  • Working with local/regional school districts in getting student permission forms signed and turned in!
  • Tour logistics (lots!) that included pairing schools with industry partners, funding and arranging buses/transportation with local/regional school districts, working with manufacturers to provide food for tour participants
  • Providing debrief time for Q &A at manufacturers 
  • Getting manufacturers to sign up as industry hosts
  • Devising a survey strategy to survey ALL MFG Day participants from students, educators, parents to industry tour hosts in capturing feedback and tabulating surveys for each of the regional manufacturing partners
  • Getting kids interested 
  • Ensuring impact
  • Continuing the conversation afterwards and all year round
  • Engagement from all participants would help provide maximum impact. Additionally, our recipe included commitment from all participants and some supporters. 
  • School districts (or individual schools) would provide bus transportation
  • Companies would host student tours, provide giveaways, and student lunches
  • Professional organizations would support giveaways and student lunches 
  • FLATE would provide manufacturing education resources (lesson plans, tour tips, posters, etc)
  • FLATE would develop, distribute, collect, aggregate, analyze, and distribute survey data
  • FLATE would help coordinate and work with regional tour coordinators 

In many regions this recipe, or local variations thereof, has worked pretty well for us with some coaching. Regional coordinators (volunteers) typically come from Regional Manufacturing Associations, EDC’s, educators at state colleges, or other manufacturing focused organizations. There are various ways to start the process. Its good for the regional coordinators to host a conference call with the districts CTE leaders to check on transportation, check on possible number of buses school districts can allocate per school/tour/students (typically MS and HS CTE programs). Some start with recruiting industry hosts, asking them to host a tour and provide lunch (and other giveaways). A quick pizza lunch provides a little time for students to interact with manufacturing professionals on a one –to-one basis and ask questions as well as provide time for students to take the post tour survey. Surveys are managed several ways: teachers are provided copies to take to the tour and have students fill out the forms and mail it back to FLATE; or the company gets the survey file printed at the tour site and sometimes FLATE mails packages to new industry tour hosts. Hosts typically return them by scanning and emailing, or returning by USPS.

Florida companies hosted nearly 5,000 students for MFG DAY/Month each of the past two
years. From over 250 tours, more than 1500 surveys were returned to FLATE each year. The impact of these tours on students is significant. You can review the impact in a 2015 FLATE White Paper summarizing the written comments we got back from students after
the 2014 tours. The White Paper is published on our website and can be accessed at: Manufacturing Day Tours: Student Feedback Shows Huge Impact. Certainly, this is just a snapshot, but a longitudinal study of specific students are very expensive, long term, and takes special expertise related to this kind of survey that FLATE does not have the resources for.

 Are you ready? Are we all ready? FLATE is, but not without a slight shift. Starting this year, our coordinating role is being handed over to our statewide partner, FloridaMakes who worked closely with FLATE in 2016 to make it a big success. FLATE will be working closely with their consortium of Regional Manufacturing Associations and many others to make the transition as seamless as possible. There is no reason that Florida cannot remain at the front of the pack for activities for MFG DAY/Month if we continue to work together to focus on industry tours for student, and the many other special events in Florida aimed at celebrating what is Made in Florida.

Let’s do this again. Let’s make Florida Number 1 again! #MFGDay17 

I now invite you to read the rest of the articles in the May edition of the FLATE Focus. This month we have articles highlighting recent graduates from across Florida, as well as information about our upcoming summer camps! Please send us your thoughts by emailing or commenting below each story here. Also, please connect with us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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