Florida State University & Chipola College's NSF ATE AM Grant Project

Engaging with employers in an ongoing, systematic way is an important means of ensuring that program offerings reflects workplace needs. The current Florida State University/Chipola NSF ATE research project (NSF 1700581) not only addresses industry engagement and evaluation with advanced manufacturing (AM) and engineering technologies (ET) through research, but also provides opportunities for project participants to gain skills and engage in activities that will enhance their AM leadership and connection to employers.  In September 2019, participants from the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE), Pensacola State College (PSC), Gulf Coast State College (GCSC), Tallahassee Community College (TCC), and Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) engaged in a variety of interviewing activities at the project’s Annual Summit held at Chipola College.

After morning activities devoted to sharing project updates and receiving the results of syllabi competency analyses, in the afternoon, participants focused on employer interviewing techniques. Project Principal Investigator (PI), Marcia A. Mardis kicked off the afternoon with a discussion of the importance of systematic employer interviewing to chart workforce changes over time and capture immediate employer needs.  Below, Dr. Mardis compared interviews to focus groups and shared effective practices:

With this foundation, Co-PIs Faye R. Jones and David Bouvin led small groups through employer interview simulations in which group members assumed personas of employers, program representatives, and notetakers. Below, Co-PI, Dr. Faye Jones, can be seen preparing fellow interviewers with project guidance and strategies for effective interviewing:

Participants each experienced being questioners, being questioned, and capturing the interviews via role playing. Participants really got into the spirit of their characters!

At the conclusion of this activity, the full group participants debriefed their experiences in each of the different roles and compared effective practices.

The session then turned to methods to capture interviews via online tools including \ Google Voice, iPhone Voice Memos, Zoom, and Collaborate.  Project team members Chase Roberts and Benjamin Bridges shared a technique from transcribing recorded interviews using YouTube so that the interviews could be thematically analyzed in a text document for review and archival purposes.  Participants also learned about the importance of continuing interviews until thematic saturation is achieved, so that important themes are allowed to fully develop.

At the conclusion of the session, many participants reported intentions to revisit their employer engagement practices and include more employer interviews.

FSU and Chipola College would especially like to thank the participants from FLATE, PSC, GCSC, TCC, NWFSC and colleagues working with the Northwest Florida Manufacturing Consortium for their contributions and hard work throughout the current NSF ATE AM grant project.

For more information about employer interview data collection or data analysis strategies, contact any of the project PIs: Marcia A. Mardis (mmardis@fsu.edu), David Bouvin (bouvind@chipola.edu), or Faye Jones (fjones@fsu.edu).

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