Some area employers turned up to talk about their challenges at an Advanced Manufacturing Pathways summit at Chipola College last week. The purpose was to bring together educators and industry leaders to talk about how the schools in the region can make their students ready for increasingly competitive but lucrative job market involving high-tech skills needed by many companies as the work place evolves.

With robotics continuing to advance and take over what used to be jobs for humans, institutions are tasked with getting students ready for the new kinds of jobs that evolve along the way so they’re not left behind without the skill sets they need to function in the rapidly changing world of work.

Among those businesses who sent representatives to the event, some companies talked about their challenges recruiting workers and their disappointment in finding that some they do hire are lacking some of the “soft skills” so crucial to success in the workforce.

Their input was added to the mix of materials being prepared in a three-year research project. It’s being conducted by a team investigating, among other things, how well institutions of higher learning are doing in turning out students that have the skills being sought by businesses that use advanced manufacturing and need people to carry out the jobs they offer.

They talked about ways to overcome the recruiting challenges and to better prepare workforce candidates in matters involving work ethics – basic things like showing up on time, calling in when they can’t report, and focusing on the job while they’re at work, as well as honing their interpersonal skills.

In recruiting, some said, they find parents are not necessarily their advocates in sharing with their children the good job possibilities that exist in their industries. They think some parent workshops might be a worthwhile undertaking, particularly for high school students in the sophomore –to- senior range. While $25-an-hour jobs are available in their workplace, they don’t believe parents may know that and are pushing their kids toward college without considering what may lie within their reach straight out of school or soon after by way of on-the-job training possibilities.

Those were just a few of the ideas tossed around in a break-out session following the main presentation by the team investigating the overall topic.

In a separate break-out session, Chipola College and other participating schools gathered to compare their curriculums to what industries say they need their workers to know and the overall cognitive abilities they need to help their companies continue advancing.

Guest speakers included David Bouvin, of Chipola College and Dr. Marilyn Barger, the principal investigator and executive director of “FLATE”—Florida Advanced Technological Education center, Marcia Mardis, FSU’s principal investigator on the FLATE team, and others.

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