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.