Future Technician Preparation: Tomorrow; Tomorrow

The effort to attenuate the impact on technician education because of "future of work" issues will continue despite temporary impediments. The octopus tentacle nature of COVID-19 to alter our behavior as it expresses itself around the world is an example of a serious but, hopefully, a temporary impediment.  However, a much less dramatic  and very short interruption in our Future of Work Series commentaries is also going to occur now. Our National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence in Florida on manufacturing education is sun setting.  FLATE has been funded by NSF for the last 15 years and it is now time to execute its succession plan.

NSF-ATE expectations for its Centers of Excellence includes the successful execution of the Center's stated mission and a specified executable sustainability plan.  An NSF supported center can normally expect two funding awards that permits, after a progress view, 10 years of operation.   Although FLATE's mission was important enough to warrant extended NSF complete support, there was an enhanced expectation for its continuation after agency funding.  FLATE departs its NSF Center status with both mission and sustainability success.

 As FLATE's NSF goals where accomplished it became evident that in Florida there was a developing infrastructure gap between the technical workforce needed to support manufacturing and the state's capacity to generate that workforce. The federally legislated Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program is executed at the national level through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as a public-partnership program dedicated to supporting small and medium-sized manufactures. FloridaMakes houses the MEP center that operates at the state level in Florida. It uses NIST-MEP resources to work directly with manufacturers and their workforce to improve production processes, upgrade technological capabilities, and facilitate product innovation.  However, the individual state MEP Centers do not have resources to support their state's career and technical education (CTE) system. Similarly, NSF-ATE provides resources to support technician education systems, but its primary mission excludes direct support for manufacturing.

After recognizing the strengths and identifying the resource restrictions of the federal MEP and ATE programs, FLATE's sustainability plan was crafted. FLATE will transition from an NSF Center to an organizational element of FloridaMakes. Operation resources would be developed through NIST-MEP in partnership with the Florida Department of Education and executed through FloridaMakes.  At the national and state levels, the goal of these respective funding partners is a model that: demonstrates effective and efficient application of resources that support the creation and development of the technical workforce for small and medium manufacturers; and facilitates individual state college NSF engineering technology education related grant project submissions that target and complement those manufacturers' technician workforce needs.

The plan's objective is to optimally combine: Florida's CTE capabilities with FloridaMakes' in-facility interactions with Florida's manufacturers: FLATE's ATE expertise, statewide college and industry connections, direct interactions with Florida Department of Education's CTE division; the Florida ET Forum's A.S. program interactions; and the Florida State Colleges technical degree program interactions with their partners within the state's manufacturing community.   This sustainability plan has been successfully executed and FLATE, after its NSF sunset, will become part of FloridaMakes with direct interactions with and involvement of the Florida Department of Education CTE division.
In summary, the biggest interruption for this Future of Work Series: No departing questions for you!  However, your questions, concerns, and interest are always important to us!!  Let us know what you think (gilbert@usf.edu).

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