A recent survey of Florida’s manufacturers found that Polk State College’s Associate in Science in Engineering Technology degree program is preparing students and employees with the skills they need to be successful in the workplace.
The results highlight the importance of higher-level thinking abilities – a skill that Polk State’s Engineering Technology Program instills in students so that they are able to keep up with the ever-changing landscape and technology of the manufacturing field.
“Manufacturing jobs are shifting from pressing a button to critical thinking and problem solving,” Engineering Technology Director Mori Toosi explained. “We are training students to think critically and evolve as technology develops and changes.”
“These skills ensure that employees remain viable in the work place long term without coming back for more training,” he added.
And that means that Polk State’s program must stay on the cutting edge of training and workforce development. By reviewing its objectives and competencies, the program continuously seeks ways to strengthen and enhance its offerings.
As part of the American Association of Community College’s (AACC) Right Signals Initiative and with the support of a grant from the Lumina Foundation, Polk State outlined the competencies for each course in its Associate in Science in Engineering Technology degree program with a specialization in Advanced Manufacturing, or mechatronics.
“Manufacturing jobs are shifting from pressing a button to critical thinking and problem solving. We are training students to think critically and evolve as technology develops and changes,” Engineering Technology Director Mori Toosi said.
The Right Signals Initiative is a new credentialing model that recognizes multiple quality credentials to send “the right signals” to employers, students, and colleges about the meaning of these credentials, according to the AACC.
Polk State is one of 20 colleges across the nation participating in the project.
A survey was created using the list of competencies outlined for the Associate in Science in Engineering Technology degree that asked industry participants to rank the importance of numerous skills, including high-level problem solving, troubleshooting, creative thinking skills, technical knowledge, and social and personal skills.
“Engineering Technology is competency based, which allows the program to offer open-entry/early-exit (OEEE) and flexibility, while fulfilling the objectives of the Department of Education and meeting local industry needs,” Dr. Toosi said. “The findings of this survey will serve as a reliable resource as we move forward next year in reviewing our competencies and looking at ways to strengthen our objectives.”
The survey yielded 88 responses from 26 of Florida’s 67 counties. Most were from central Florida’s I-4 corridor.
“The findings tell us that higher-level thinking, soft skills, and personal skills are at the top of the list for manufacturers,” Dr. Toosi explained. “They are begging and crying for employees who possess these skills along with the technical requirements.”
The need for a highly-trained workforce is felt both locally and nationally.
The National Association of Manufacturers found in a first quarter survey that the inability to attract and retain a quality workforce is the top business challenge for manufacturers. Polk State is on NAM’s M-List, which endorses and recognizes schools that are teaching manufacturing students to industry standards.
“The findings of this survey will serve as a reliable resource as we move forward next year in reviewing our competencies and looking at ways to strengthen our objectives,” Dr. Toosi said.
With approximately 16,500 manufacturers in Florida, job opportunities in the field are diverse and seemingly limitless. And with an average annual wage of $52,000 and manufacturing jobs paying up to 20 percent more than the average annual wage in Florida, a job in manufacturing can be a rewarding career.
Polk State’s Associate in Science in Engineering Technology degree program allows students to gain the knowledge and skills they need for Florida’s diverse advanced manufacturing sectors, Dr. Toosi explained.
The degree prepares students with higher-level technical and thinking skills, and allows them to progress to advanced industry certifications or baccalaureate-level degree studies.
For more information about the Engineering Technology Program, visit www.polk.edu/et.