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Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE; www.fl-ate.org) has been funded since 2004 by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Based at the Hillsborough Community College Brandon Campus, FLATE's mission is to create a manufacturing educational delivery system by offering the curriculum development, technical programs, best practice demonstrations, student involvement, and outreach activities necessary to meet the workforce capacity and high-performance skill needs of manufacturing sectors throughout the state of Florida. FLATE works with the Florida Department of Education's (FLDOE) Career and Adult Education Division to implement systemic statewide change as well as with community college and secondary educators to facilitate local implementation of those changes and to recruit students into the programs.
Demand-driven response to Florida's manufacturing community called for revisions to the curriculum frameworks for engineering technology and manufacturing-related programs based on the following:
In addition to adding industry relevance to the degree, embedding the MSSC CPT into the degree's technical core was the key to the FLATE-developed statewide articulation agreement that was approved by the FLDOE in 2008. This agreement provides 15 credit hours (of the 18-credit-hour technical core) toward the engineering technology degree in any college in the state offering the degree, for any holder of a current MSSC CPT credential. This agreement was the first of its kind in Florida and the nation and established an important model for all of Florida's career pathways. Florida is now replicating this model in its Gold Standard Career Pathways initiative and has over 20 statewide articulation agreements based on national industry certifications in several career clusters.
The articulation-by-certification concept led FLATE to develop an MSSC CPT-aligned curriculum framework for secondary and postsecondary certificate programs (automation and production technology) that would also support the manufacturing and production industries and articulate into the engineering technology degree. This companion framework gives high school students access to the articulated pathway to the associate degree. Pre-engineering and manufacturing career academies in Florida now use MSSC CPT-credentialed faculty to prepare students not only for postsecondary education but also for this national industry certification.
In the spring of 2009, FLATE's innovation in articulated career pathways received national attention when the National Association of Manufacturer's (NAM) Manufacturing Institute revealed its new Skills Certification System credentialed career pathways. FLATE's curriculum reform efforts were in place in Florida when NAM introduced its industry-endorsed system, which will "revolutionize education and training for the 21st century manufacturing workforce," according to NAM President and CEO John Engler. The NAM system of career-readiness credentials includes a series of progressive certifications valued by manufacturers to acknowledge increasing levels of skill and experience attainment. This hierarchy of certifications is aligned with the Department of Labor's Competency Model for Manufacturing (www.doleta.gov). It begins with certification for employability skills and continues through experienced certified manufacturing technologists.
The integration of the NAM-endorsed Skills Certification System into academic settings was covered in two related sessions at the 2009 HI-TEC conference (http://www.highimpact-tec.org). FLATE presented its engineering technology AS/AAS degree and integrated MSSC CPT certification pathways for secondary students and incumbent workers. In another session, Weld-ED (a national ATE center) showed how its curriculum integrates the American Welding Society (AWS) certification, which is also aligned with the NAM system. At the NCPN conference, participants will have the opportunity to learn more about FLATE's model curriculum and the NAM-endorsed Skills Certification System, discuss lessons learned when using certifications in the continuum of secondary and postsecondary education, and explore broader implications for best practices in other career clusters.
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Marilyn Barger is Principal Investigator and Executive Director, FLATE, Hillsborough Community College, Tampa, Florida. For more information, contact Marilyn at email@example.com.