Executive Director Discusses National Perspective on Supply Chain for Middle-Skills Jobs

Last month the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Engineering and Medicine hosted a symposium focused on The Supply Chain for Middle-Skill Jobs: Education, Training and Certification Pathways. The half day event took place
in the National Academy building on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. The symposium was part of a research project commissioned by the NAS Board on Science, Technology and Economic Policy to investigate a number of different aspects of middle skill jobs. First, there is the question of how we define middle skill jobs. Next, an ad hoc committee is exploring the attributes and aspects of these jobs. Finally, current labor workforce needs that impact the coverage, effectiveness, flexibility, and coordination among the nation's programs to prepare Americans for technically oriented, skilled positions in the workforce demanding non-routine problem-solving skills, but requiring a baccalaureate degree was examined. The education and training systems under study include: apprenticeship programs offered by schools, unions, and employers; high school career and technical education (CTE) programs; advanced technical education and training in community colleges and for-profit colleges; employer-financed and provided training; federal education and training programs; state learning exchanges; public-private employment training partnerships; and licensing and skills certification. 

Among the questions the committee hopes to answer are those pertinent to current gaps in coverage and market failures in this part of the labor market. Topics addressed include the current and preferred public and private sector roles in financing, and providing employment training and skills certification as well as the incentives and information for individuals to improve their work skills. Several employment preparation practices in other countries and those of foreign-headquartered firms and their relevance to the U.S. labor market are included in the study. 

The symposium format was a series of short presentations on these topics by individual researchers. FLATE was invited to participate as part of a panel of experts and working professionals who responded to the report from their own work and experience perspective. The presentations and input from the panel discussants seeded lively audience question and answer periods after the panels. The goal was to provide additional input and resources for the researchers to explore and include in their reports. The entire event was webcast and recorded and should be available soon on the National Academy website, with the final consensus report summarizing the findings available in 2016. The ultimate goal is to provide definitions and background for national strategies to support the current and emerging workforce needs for these middle-skill career pathways. 

The event was a great experience for me. It was also a wonderful opportunity to share the “Florida Plan,” and the
Sen. Tim Kaine (VA)
addresses the Middle Skills NAS symposium
work FLATE has done in Florida embedding industry credentials into high school and 2-year college technical programs and providing multiple flexible, strong pathways into and out of workforce education for manufacturing. On the flip side, I do have some concern about researchers and policy professionals in our capital and elite research institutions that seem to have little to no experience in the “field” proposing national policies based on their understanding from an academic perspective. Lastly, never having been to the National Academy building, I was captivated by its history, its elegance, and its important niche in our Federal Government. It is open to the public and has some awesome facilities, art, and information to share. I totally recommend it as an additional “bucket” list stop when you visit the National Mall. 

…And now I’d like to invite you to read the rest of the stories in the July edition of the FLATE Focus. Our robotics and the energy camps are off to a good start—do read a recap from the ones we’ve had so far and follow us on our social networking platforms as we push forward with the rest of the robotics camps this month. Curriculum and professional development is never far away from our bigger mission to stay connected with industry and educators…take some time to read the stories about our Nanotechnolgy camp for teachers and also the summer institute for teachers which was great hit with educators and local manufacturers. Do congratulate the STEP awardees for their remarkable accomplishments, and read up on the new ET program at Lake Sumter State College. Don’t forget to sign up for the educator workshop at FACTE coming up later this month and check your answers to last month’s sTEm puzzle. This and many more stories in this edition of the FLATE Focus! Do write to us at news@fl-ate.org, or post your comments and stay connected through our social networking platforms on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

FLATE Wins National Career Pathways Partnership Excellence Award

……..if we may toot our own horns, but we would like to share this good, no make that GREAT news with
all our stakeholders and partners. FLATE—the National Science Foundation Regional Center of Excellence in Florida was named winner of the National Career Pathways Partnership Excellence Award. Sponsored by Kuder, Inc. (www.kuder.com), the Career Pathways Partnership Excellence Award emphasizes the importance of career guidance and advising, professional development for educators and employers, and the employer role in providing work-based learning opportunities for students.  Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE will receive the award at the annual National Career Pathways Network (NCPN) conference in Dallas (www.ncpn.info). 

The National Career Pathways Network (NCPN) assists its education and business members in implementing, evaluating, and improving Career Pathways initiatives by providing a communication network. NCPN strives to compile and share information on exemplary practices; collaborate to develop implementation resources; and foster communication about Career Pathways and other workforce education programs. For more information about the award visit www.kuder.com and www.ncpn.info.  For information on FLATE and it’s state-of-the-art, award winning programs visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinflorida.org

Nano Nano! Workshop for Educators Looks at the ‘Science of Small Things’

Think small! Perhaps this isn’t a phrase that you hear very often these days, but when it comes to
nanotechnology, thinking small, very small, in fact at the atomic level is just perfect! At a time when everyone looks at the big picture, at mass structures, why give the time of day to a study of atoms? “The more we understand the world at the atomic, or the nano scale, the better understanding we have of how things work” says Deb Newberry, principal investigator and director of Nano-Link, the National Science Foundation Center of Excellence in Nanotechnology in Minnesota.

More often than not, most people’s introduction to nano science actually starts while learning about atoms and molecules, and how the composition/arrangement of atoms defines the physical, biological, chemical, electrical properties of everything we see around us. But there is much more to learn about this ‘all things small’ science than meets the eye. From electronics, paints, windows, to self-cleaning energy to material science, or biotechnology, “there isn’t a single industry that isn’t impacted by nano science!” says Newberry. Indeed, nano science influences many different disciplines. There is a huge need to educate students about the applications of nano science and technology in real world settings, and even more imperative for educators to be conversant about nanotechnology.

Given these parameters, FLATE—the Florida-based, National Science Foundation Regional Center of Excellence recently partnered with Nano-Link—to host a nano workshop for educators in the sunshine state. The workshop is part of a network of educator workshops offered by Nano-Link to raise awareness and educate educators by helping infuse nanotechnology concepts into everyday classes/curriculum. “Teachers need to have the confidence to be able to know the subject thoroughly and be able to do the activities and experiments so they can teach these concepts to their students” said Newberry.

In essence, the workshop is using teachers, like Deborah Seto, as vehicles to reach students and make them
aware about nanotechnology and related careers. Seto, who is a science teacher for Ferrell Girls Preparatory Academy in Tampa, says she attended the workshop  because she wants to learn more about nano science and technology. Activities for the workshop were targeted predominantly for high school and college educators, and were based off of 20 modules created by Nano-Link. It covered a broad range of topics that encapsulated everything from chemistry to polimer science, forces and interactions, light and defraction gradings to laminar and turbulent fluid flow etc. Even though the curriculum was designed at a higher level, Seto’s interest in the workshop was spurred by the tremendous amount of research on the topic. “These are the very concepts I am trying to introduce as part of my curriculum to teach middle school students about the science of ‘small things,” Seto said.

Indeed, there are several real-world applications to nano science and technology that few know about. Deborah Newberry points to the abalone shell as an example of nano science/technology at work. Using nano science, Newberry says, scientists have been able to learn and understand the architectural structure of an abalone shell and translate that in real world settings to make earthquake proof buildings, or light weight bullet proof vests. The news is all exciting for teachers like Aimme Randol, a language arts and mathematics teacher at Venice Christian School, who is a proponent of independent research guided learning. She says the workshop gave her an arsenal to develop analysis and critical thinking skills through reading and attention to details. She hopes to use this resource and skill to “help make learning authentic for her students.”

Another positive attribute of nano science is also its positive job outlook. Deborah Newberry says she has more
companies calling her wanting to hire students than the other way round. “I get calls from companies based in California, New York, Indiana etc., looking to hired for skilled workers and technicians.” Current position openings primarily center on product development and research, with many nano technology students and technicians working with scientists and engineers to develop and test new products like new coatings for teeth, or new shingle coatings that don’t mold. Given the job outlook and skill set requirements, even at start-up companies looking for technicians who can understand the nano scale, Deborah Seto is convinced “nano is the wave of the future and where everything is headed,” and that it is important to generate students’ interest at an early stage so they can be exposed to some of these concepts.

The “Workshop for Educators” module has been highly successful not only in terms of being implemented across the United States, but also in its outreach to students. “What we are doing is working” said Newberry. To date, Nano-Link has reached over 33,000 students through educator workshops and other modular approaches,” and boasts of an 83% implementation rate from teachers who have attended the workshop. At the conclusion of the workshop all attendees were also provided with a thumb drive containing PowerPoint slides shared at the workshop that they could take back to review and/or use in class.

The post workshop survey conducted by FLATE indicates an overall satisfaction ratio in the workshop, with an
impressive 4.6 out of a possible 5 where 4 is very good and 5 is excellent. One hundred percent of the participants said they planned to contact Nano-Link through its website www.nano-link.org, and use information presented in the workshop. The same percentage of participants (100%) also stated they would recommend the workshop to others.

For more information on Nano-Link and nano-related workshop for educators contact Director & PI, Deb Newberry at dmnewberry2001@yahoo.com. For information on FLATE’s educator resources and professional development toolkits visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org, or contact Executive Director/PI, Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org, or at 813.259.6578. 

All Girls Camp Sets Campers on a Path of Exploration & Innovation

FLATE’s All Girls Camp is a big news maker every summer. The Camp draws focus on an important topic that highlights the relevance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in real-world settings, and more importantly, echoes the need for women to be engaged in STEM and robotics. “From cloud computing the next step is robotics” said Burt Ginampos whose daughter Felize Ginampos attended FLATE’s ‘All Girls’ camp last month. Ginampos echoed the sentiments of several parents who pointed the camp has served as a ‘hook’ in getting their daughters curious about STEM and excited about robotics, even those campers who stated their natural calling isn’t particularly mathematics or science.

For example, Monique Joseph who stated attending the camp stirred her curiosity about robotics, but candidly
admitted she “does not enjoy science, or math” per se. To that end, the robotics camp is aimed at developing a passion for STEM among existing STEM enthusiasts, but more importantly targeted to bolster a shift in thought towards STEM. How does the FLATE robotics camp achieve this, or what role does the camp play in getting students’ curiosity fired up about these topics?

A core part of FLATE’s strategy to engage students, particularly girls, in STEM has been through problem based learning where girls can work in a collaborative, team-based environment. “The challenges are hard, but I really enjoyed it” said Felize Ginampos. Another camper, Dariya Bagley, also stated she enjoyed the challenges because it “made her think.” Through hands-on exercises that showcase real-life applications of STEM and robotics, the challenges consistently reflect what experts across the board agree is an effective mechanism in creating a “hook” for students to get them interested in STEM. The ‘hook’ in this case was of course the robot, and the added excitement for most campers was programming the robot to work through various challenges.

Besides learning about programming and real-world applications of STEM, another valuable take away from the
camp was developing problem-solving skills and teamwork that are critical in any workplace. “I hope she learns how stuff is made from a technical standpoint, but also learns how to work in a team” said Amit Sehra, whose daughter Aarushi was programming robots for the first time. Felize, who already knew about programming robots liked the camp as it gave her the chance to meet new people and at the same time challenged her to think beyond what she already knew about programming.

To enhance campers’ experience and give them a first-hand view of what it is like to work in high-tech manufacturing settings, campers were taken on a “Made in Florida” industry tour of Publix Dairy in Lakeland, FL, where they witnessed STEM concepts being applied in various manufacturing processes. The tour was a game changer in more ways than one. “My visit to Publix completely changed my mind” said Marissa Stanley who added she’ll “never look at milk the same way.” Indeed touring a high-tech manufacturing facility left a deep imprint on most campers, with most making connection between theoretical concepts learned in class, during the camp and their real-world applications. ‘I thought it was cool to see how efficiently the machines and robots worked” said Camille a 6th grader at Burns Middle School. Dariya Bagley who grew up around computers and robots stated visiting the Publix manufacturing facility changed her opinion about factories having a lot of people working. Instead what she saw were more machines and robots.

Indeed, FLATE’s “Made In Florida” industry tours are geared to educate students about modern manufacturing
tools and practices, and showcase production environments and automated processes that require similar soft skills and technical skills in robotics and programming that they learned during the camp. In an ongoing effort to reach out to minorities and students from economically challenged backgrounds, and spark their interest in STEM, FLATE once again partnered with Suncoast Credit Union Foundation to provide scholarships to girls from low income families to attend the robotics camps. The mission of the scholarship is to” improve the lives of children through education, health, or emotional well-being” said Cindy Helton, executive director of Suncoast Credit Union Foundation.

The Foundation offered 14 scholarships this year on a first come, first served basis, and since the inception of the program and partnership with FLATE has served as a pathway for recipients to avail of opportunities that would not be possible without financial support from the Foundation. “STEM is one the fastest growing professions and these girls need to know/get interested and excited about the opportunities” said Helton. Since the inception of their program, Suncoast Credit Union Foundation has donated over $13 million dollars to community based organizations supporting women and girls in STEM, with $2.2 million in donations in 2014 alone.

Post event surveys from the camp show 100% of the campers agree that programming the robot helped them see
how automated systems are programmed and controlled. One hundred percent of the campers also stated the camp provided opportunities for teamwork and collaborations with others. Over 95% stated the camp helped them better understand how STEM concepts/principles are used in industry/real-world settings.

For more information about the robotics camps and the “Made in Florida” industry tours for middle and high school students visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinflorida.org. For information on upcoming FLATE robotics camps and robotics-related professional development opportunities for educators contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org and Desh Bagley, outreach manager and camp director at bagley@fl-ate.org

Advanced Manufacturing Institute Serves as a Highway Connecting Manufacturers and Educators

Manufacturers and educators are closely tied by some common goals. Now more than ever manufacturers and
educators are finding themselves standing on common ground looking to align towards each other’s needs. On one end of the continuum are educators who are looking to streamline curriculum to match local workforce needs; while on the other end of the same continuum are industry professionals who are depending on educators to equip and train students with credentials and ready-to-work skills that meet their current workforce needs. In an effort to bridge and/or lesson the gap between the two ends of this spectrum, FLATE recently hosted a summer Career Institute for educators that served as a common platform for industry and educators to openly discuss ideas and strategies to develop curriculum and training modules that match manufacturers’ needs.

The three day Institute involved 84 participants that included teachers, manufacturers and industry leaders
from across Florida who convened to share ideas and best practices and formulate streamlined education modules. “Like all good educators I want to see what the other educators are doing successfully” said Russ Henderlite, teacher at Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology in Jacksonville, FL. The workshop was infused with hands-on activities that centered on additive manufacturing, SolidWorks and 3D printing exercises targeted to give educators a hands-on perspective on cutting-edge manufacturing practices currently implemented by high-tech manufacturers across the state. “I loved the workshop as it gave me a real-world view of manufacturing and helped identify the gaps between education and employment” said Selena Lewis, Project Lead the Way teacher at Young Middle Magnet School in Tampa.

During the three day workshop, educators also got information about FLATE’s new CIS (Comprehension Instructional Sequence Model) lesson plans. This new curriculum is aligned with the common core/FL standards, and is designed to build learners’ background knowledge in STEM, expand their vocabularies, and promote reading/writing success. “I knew anything FLATE offered would be professionally rewarding for me” said Akilah Graham, teacher at Young Middle Magnet School who previously attended FLATE teacher camp and was inspired to start an “All Girls STEM Club” to get girls interested in STEM and robotics.

In addition to the curriculum piece, educators got a 360 degree perspective on manufacturing and STEM
being applied in real-world settings through industry tours to Vulcan Machine, Inc., Southern Manufacturing Technologies, and EMS Inc. in Tampa. “I had never been to a manufacturing facility. I liked seeing the 3D printers and how ubiquitous they are in the workplace” said Laurie Hamill, STEAM teacher at Rowlett Academy. Russ Henderlite, who works closely with FLATE Executive Director, Dr. Marilyn Barger on several curriculum issues, agreed the tours gave him additional insight on discussing various technologies at play, the range of materials and machines being used by manufacturers, that he could take back to the classroom and discuss with his students. 

The highlight of the three day workshop featured a luncheon tête-à-tête with a distinguished panel of manufacturers from across Florida. Educators and panelists discussed current educational and training requirements. They also examined the importance of certifications at the high school level, brainstormed ideas for creating ‘a hook’ for students to be engaged in manufacturing, and reviewed areas and opportunities for new training and education.

Manufacturers like Roy Sweatman, president and CEO of Southern Manufacturing Technologies, pointed to 
the importance of soft skills, ability of students/new employees to take on complex tasks, work as a team, develop effective communication, problem-solving and leadership skills. Both manufacturers and educators also stressed the significance of creating meaningful internships and apprenticeship programs, and also establishing sustainable partnerships with local industry contacts. With reference to industry-school relationships and adoptions, Dr. Marilyn Barger pointed to the “importance of establishing an institutional relationship vs. a personal relationship.” In terms of internships, Mike Brewster, vice president for Operations at Monin in Tampa, underlined the need to use interns in a productive manner. Mercedes Heredia, an engineering technology graduate from Hillsborough Community College who is currently interning at MiTek and served as a guest panelist along with Lydia Moring, HR manager at MiTek, also agreed supervisors play a definitive role in serving as a model in generating an intern’s interest in manufacturing careers. As for industry certifications, Russ Henderlite suggested using it as a general guideline of a current/prospective employee’s knowledge base, but not as a guarantee to assess the ability to apply theoretical principles in real-world settings. Following the luncheon session with manufacturers, the group was subdivided into groups of 4-6 participants for a one-on-one session with an industry panelist.

FLATE’s summer institute for educators afforded several enriching experiences in communicating and bridging common concerns of
educators and manufacturers. Post event survey data reflect an overall positive response from attendees. One hundred percent of the attendees stated they plan to use the information presented during the workshop. The same percentage (100%) also stated they would recommend the workshop to their peers/others. Approximately 90% of the attendees also stated the lunch with manufacturers was good and/or excellent. Approximately 95% of attendees rated their overall industry tour as good and/or excellent.

For more information about FLATE 2015 Advanced Manufacturing Institute visit www.fl-ate.org, or contact Dr, Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org

FLATE Energy Camp Sparks Students’ Interest in Alternative & Renewable Energy Technologies

Summer is the time for fun and exploration. This summer at the energy camp, hosted by FLATE at Hillsborough Community College’s South Shore campus, middle school students did their own exploration of alternative and renewable energy sources and the various technologies involved in conserving renewable energy resources. “This camp is not like the other camps that I’ve been to where you just sit and see stuff” said Katherine Olivares an eighth grader from Beth Shields Middle School in Ruskin, FL.

Indeed FLATE’s summer energy camps have served as a great tool in helping students like Olivares make
real-life connections with the world of energy. Participating students are currently enrolled in Hillsborough County’s AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, with many being first generation, college-bound students. The four-day camp which is in its fifth year of operation is made possible through a partnership between the Hillsborough County School District, FLATE, and Hillsborough Community College (HCC).

What made the camp an exceptionally fun experience were the hands-on exercises that challenged students to think out of the box. Students learned about hydroelectric power, solar and wind energy, fossil fuels and hydrogen fueled cars through various activities that were geared to stir their curiosity and interest in key, energy related concepts and topics. “I liked learning about different forms of energy and how we can use them in the future” said Abraham Rodriguez, an 8th grader at Turkey Creek Middle School who aspires to become a nuclear engineer someday.

The camp also afforded students opportunities to hone and develop their team work skills—skills identified as valuable 
assets in the workplace. Among all the challenges, the ‘solar cooker activity’ was a crowd favorite, as students got to design their own cooker to make s’mores! Working in groups of four and applying the concepts learned during the camp, students designed and built their own solar powered cooker out of a cardboard box. Klarissa Perez, a seventh grade student at Beth Shields Middle School wrapped her cooker in saran wrap so the heat would be trapped and evenly distributed. Abraham and his team came up with an equally neat idea to line the insides of the cooker with aluminum, and paint the outside in black so it can to absorb more heat.

The solar cooker was just one of many experiments, but what the students did and learned was remarkably
ingenious as they were able to connect theoretical concepts and apply them in real-world settings. “They need to hear and learn about things in different ways” said Sevi Ball, AVID Coordinator at Beth Shields Middle School. Ball noted what they do at the camp not only reinforces what some have already learned in class, but prepares them for a possible future career in a related field. She said the camp adds to students’ confidence, in that, students who have previously attended the energy camp have a lot more confidence and during the regular academic year have taken on leadership roles in school.

Students also added to their pool of knowledge during their field trip to TECO Energy where they saw first-hand, energy generation and conservation at work. During the tour students got to see turbines, generators and transformers used in industrial settings to power up homes throughout Tampa Bay. “I learned many new things” said Katherine Olivares, who stated the tour also expanded her knowledge about jobs in the energy industry.

Another exciting opportunity for the students was the “Green” tour of HCC’s South Shore Campus. Dr. Allen
Witt, campus president took students on a guided tour of HCC’s LEED Gold certified campus which is also the first entirely green campus in Florida! Students toured HCC’s state of the art biology lab where they got a first-hand view of the measures taken by HCC to “cut the carbon footprint” of the building. “We want this to be a life-changing experience for these students” said Dr. Witt. During the tour, he showed students various measures the college has/is taking towards energy savings and conservation. Some of these included getting a charging station for electric powered vehicles, clothes recycling bins, designing an effective irrigation system for cooling such as jungle canopies over walkways and spray fountains to maximize air circulation and cooling, and  installing water filtration systems to eliminate use of plastic bottles. Other measures included integration of under-floor air in the building, and high ceilings, east-west alignment, large windows to allow natural/ambient lighting to minimize use of electricity from the grid. “I hope the tour will inspire these students to aspire for higher goals and ambitions” Dr. Witt said.

…And inspire it did. “I like the biology lab because I am interested in science” said Daniel, seventh grader at
Marshall Middle School in Plant City, FL. Abraham also loved the campus tour and looks forward to attending HCC’s South Shore campus “probably in the next 4-5 years.”  The energy camp has undoubtedly had tremendous impact on students and teachers alike. Over the years the camp has grown in the number of offerings to include students from four schools this year, with Marshall Middle School being the newest addition. 2015 also witnessed the highest attendance ever, with overwhelming positive feedback from teachers and students alike. Results from the tour are being tabulated by FLATE and will be shared in a subsequent edition of the FLATE Focus, or will be posted on our website. You can stay in the loop about FLATE’s energy camps by contacting Nina Stokes, project manager at stokes@fl-ate.org and 813.259.6587. For information on FLATE’s STEM and robotics based resources for middle and high school students visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org, or contact Executive Director of FLATE, Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org.