The Disconnect Can Be Connected

  Companies are looking for workers.  People are looking for jobs.  Schools and colleges are looking for students to educate and train.  Schools, students and employers are looking for internship opportunities.  Yet, in local manufacturing, an industry that pays an average wage of over $49,000, and beats entrance level wages offering full time employment, it is hard to fill job openings.   Obviously, there is a disconnect.  Why, with so much going on, do people fall through the cracks?  Awareness is the key.

There are many local resources available.  Many people working to break down the silos and connect the current job seekers to job openings, education and training to those that want it.  Surprisingly, people are still not aware that manufacturing is thriving and growing in Flagler and Volusia counties.   The VMA’s (the region’s manufacturing alliance and #1 resource for manufacturers), “We Make It Here” effort which started out as a campaign is now a movement committed to making our 500,000+ residents champions for manufacturing.

Knowledge is power.  We have over 450 manufacturers in the area, offering dynamic career paths and livable wages.  With this knowledge, we can harness the energy, focus and persistence we need to solve the current skilled labor shortage.   We will catapult our community to be bold to massively retrain our workforce to prepare for the 4th Industrial Revolution.  This manufacturing uprising is speeding towards us offering high skill jobs that create economic value. For example, jobs in advanced robotics, additive manufacturing, horizontal/vertical integration, augmented reality, cloud and cyber security, simulation, industrial internet (the internet of things), and big data analytics.   If we prepare, we will be able to boost employment, productivity and growth of high skill, high wage jobs right here in Flagler and Volusia counties like never before.

The “We Make It Here” Movement talks about the products produced here and it also speaks to the training, education and resources in place now.  But we must USE them, DEMAND them, and ASK for more.

Daytona State College was awarded a four-year $3.7M TechHire Partnership Grant from the U.S. department of Labor (DOL) to provided short-term skills training manufacturing and information technology-related fields. They will provide training for jobs in  advanced manufacturing, industrial machinery maintenance and  IT through the college’s Center for Business & Industry. Their Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology degree was just accredited.  The Engineering Technology associate degree features specializations in digital design and additive manufacturing with college-credit certificates. These in addition to the MSSC Certifications in Production Technology, welding, CNC machining and other programs to prepare people for lucrative, growth careers.

Volusia County Schools have an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and nine manufacturing-related academies. The award winning Academy of Information Technology and Robotics (AITR) at Spruce Creek High School is setting up the groundwork to become a standalone charter school.

In January, students from Spruce Creek High School AITR, University STEM Academy and the New Smyrna Beach High School Engineering Academy will build a robot and compete in the FIRST Robotics competition.  The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.  Our schools have been competing for years and the results are truly inspiring.

Early next year, Mainland High School will be hosting its First Annual Vex Robotics competition.  Teams from all over central Florida will be competing for the chance to advance to the Vex State competition held in the spring.  In the VEX Competitions, teams of students are tasked with designing and building a robot to play against other teams from around the world in a game-based engineering challenge.  Classroom STEM concepts are put to the test on the playing field as students learn lifelong skills in teamwork, communications and more. Tournaments are held year-round at the regional, state and national levels; local champions go on to compete in the world at the VEX Worlds in April.

Mainland High School will be the first school to implement a wall to wall Academy concept this year.   Data shows that students in an Academy have a much higher graduation rate than the overall rate.

Galaxy Middle School received funding from the VMA Lou Fifer Education Golf Tournament last year and has transformed their middle school education.  With the money they received, they started a STEM Academy that currently has one hundred students.  The program will expand next year to one third of Galaxy’s student population.  The academy does real world projects with the 3D printer and computer purchased. Computer-Assisted Design (CAD) is extensively used for their Science Olympiad program, Innovations course, and new STEM Academy.  Students are highly motivated to learn CAD to modify and create designs of their own.  Their media center is being converted to a Makerspace/ STEM Lab that is open to all students, and highly used by their Science Olympiad, STEM Academy, and Innovations students.  Students are creating prototypes for various projects with which they are involved.

The Advanced Manufacturing Academy at Pine Ridge High School has a new venture. They won a grant for a kit to build a race car to campaign in the Greenpower racing league. It is a full size, single seat, electric car that the students design, build and race. The league is expanding into the southeast, and they will be the first team in that expansion.  This is a cornerstone project for the academy and the buy in from students has been immediate and universal. Jim Maynard, the Academy Director, wants to build this racing program to the same level that FIRST Robotics is at AITR, and expand from Greenpower into a second SAE Formula team.

Some examples of what is going on in the Flagler County Schools include the i3 New Tech Academy- a Flagler Schools Flagship Program in which the students completed a project last year for designing a prosthetic leg for a dog.  The project, named Prosthetics for Paws, won best in network for the New Tech Network. They were recognized at the New Tech National Conference, and presented their project to over 2000

attendees.  Through a combined biology and drawing class, the students designed competing types of possible limbs on software, and then brought them to reality through their 3D printers.  Working with numerous local businesses, including veterinarians and physical therapists, the best leg was chosen for their dog.  This project has continued and the students are working with several new canine candidates this year.

The STEM Academy at Wadsworth Elementary is a school within a school where the students receive instruction on their grade level standards through working heavily in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  They utilize the Engineering Lab at Wadsworth Elementary, compete in robotics competitions, design projects for the 3D printer, and are given many other opportunities to create and problem solve.  This group attended the VMA Showcase and competed in the robotics competition at that event alongside high school teams.  Flagler Schools Flagship programs embrace the concept of providing paths for students at a very young age of career opportunities, and allows them to explore experiences through engaging and innovative instruction from elementary school through high school.

CareerSource Flagler Volusia has developed the Career Community Portal for businesses, teachers and students. This tool is available for teachers to connect with businesses to help the next generation of workers.  Businesses can find their future workforce and students learn about career goals, gain valuable work experience and learn the “soft” skills through on the job training.

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) has a mechanical engineering program, in addition, to being the leaders in innovation.  The new Congressman John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Innovation Complex, or the “The MicaPlex,” for short, has a laboratory and wind tunnel, and will anchor the 90-acre Embry-Riddle Research Park, which will seek to attract more research labs.  The MicaPlex will be a 50,000-square-foot hub, adjacent to Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach Campus with 10,000 square feet of lease space "as part of a collaborative platform for incubating new technologies."

Stetson University and Bethune Cookman University are working to partner  more with the local manufacturers.

As you can see we have so much going on and this certainly is not everything.  So why the continued disconnect?   Awareness, as I said.

What can you do to grow the “We Make It Here” movement? You can provide work-based learning opportunities, internships and mentoring; engage in the development of the curriculum at the schools; make financial contributions for on-the-job training, internships and Teacher Quest Internship tuition; provide site tour and speaker engagements; donate equipment and /or space for hands-on training; participate in designing and implementing career pathway programs;  and  support the Manufacturing Champions Guidance Counselor/Teacher Bus Tour.

Most importantly, talk about the wide variety of recognizable products made here that people use every day like sun tan lotions, personal care products, boats, luxury yachts, signs, syringes, pumps, dialysis liquids, blood bags, parachutes, sportsman sunglasses, mattresses, sheds, intelligent classrooms, taffy and key lime pies.  Plus, many parts that go into bigger parts. Let’s make sure we never hear again, "I Didn't Know We Made That Here!"

VMA will take all your suggestions, help, connections to insure the success of the “We Make It Here” movement.  This is a roll up your sleeves, grassroots movement.  Together we can rock the manufacturing world!

By Jayne Fifer, President/CEO, VMA

VMA…the Region's #1 Resource for Manufacturers

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