FLATE’s Executive Director Discusses the Role of Innovation in the Workplace

On November 9, 2017, FLATE partnered with the Gus A. Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and
Economic Education at the University of South Florida (USF) to present a workshop focused on the role of innovation in the workplace for all members of the workforce. The workshop program was entitled “Design Thinking and Decision Making: Creating the Entrepreneurial MINDSET Students Need to Succeed in the Global Economy.” A panel of six of FLATE’s Tampa Bay industry partners shared how and why their companies encouraged creativity and innovation for all employees and what businesses in the 21st century expect from all workers. The panelists started with brief introductions about themselves, their companies and products they make, or services they provide to industry. Following those introductions, the 30 plus K-12 educators from the Tampa Bay region eagerly quizzed the panel members about what their students could expect in the modern workplace, how much and how they used 3D printing, and how employees work together. They also asked for tips on how to help students acquire these kinds of skills.

All the panelists emphasized that employees, up and down the company’s organizational chart
are expected to contribute to “continuous improvement” by thinking “outside the box” and finding solutions to both simple and complex problems. Students from a young age should be encouraged to take the “tools” they learn in school and apply them to new situations, new problems, and new ideas. The session went on for nearly 90 minutes with panelists encouraging the educators to challenge students to be inventive, take their students out into the workplace, bring employers to the classrooms, and to keep talking with different employers and employees. After the panel session, the Stavros Center team shared a number of resources for educators on design thinking that could be easily incorporates into their classrooms. Information on these resources can be accessed here.

In their session evaluation forms the educators raved about the energy and passion expressed by all the panel members. “This has been one of the BEST workshops I have attended! Every panel member and speaker had some perspective on innovation and creativity that will fit every grade level,” was just one of those very positive comments. We definitely appreciate the panelist sharing pieces of their everyday work lives with these teachers.

Al Card Southern Manufacturing Technologies Quality Engineer / Six Sigma Black-belt
Joe Paciella Southern Manufacturing Technologies Production Supervisor / Manager
Peter Cirak Seal Dynamics Quality Assurance Director
Reese Thompson Adams Air & Hydraulics, Inc. Vice President
Ken Jurgensmeyer MiTek USA Tampa Stamping Plant Director of Manufacturing Operations
Paul Schnitzler College of Engineering, USF Retired Senior Telecommunications Management Bell and RCA Laboratories

For FLATE, educating all K-12 teachers, especially the non-STEM teachers is an important recruitment strategy. Most teachers who are not in STEM fields know little about STEM occupations and careers, or the growing number of opportunities that will be available for their students for high-skill, high-wage STEM careers including those in manufacturing. Arming these teachers with real world information, contacts and examples helps them to provide real education and employment options to their students.

FLATE and the Stavros Center are now planning to take this workshop “on the road” to bring
manufacturers to teachers in other Tampa Bay counties next spring with the same focus on innovation in the workplace. The mission of the Stavros Center is to advance the effective teaching and integration of free enterprise, financial literacy, and economic education into the K-20 curricula. The Stavros Center is now in its 38th year at USF. FLATE’s mission as an NSF-ATE Regional Center for Advanced Technological Education, is to be the go-to organization for manufacturing and advanced technical education, best practices and resources supporting the high performance skilled workforce for Florida’s manufacturing sectors. Together we are working help teachers better prepare today’s students for the future. For more information on FLATE and its extensive array of professional development and curriculum resources visit the FLATE Wiki and the Made in Florida website, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org/813.259.6578.

I now invite you to read the rest of the stories in this special holiday edition of the FLATE Focus. Don’t forget to take a stab at cracking this month’s special “#RudolphEdition” of the sTEm puzzle! (Spoiler Alert: It’s hilarious!) We’d love to hear from you so be sure to drop us a comment below the blog post(s), or connect with us socially on Facebook and LinkedIn, or Tweet us @Made_InFlorida using the hashtag of the month #IndustryEducationPatnerships. From all of us at FLATE have a holly, jolly Christmas and a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2018!

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