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Assessing Educational Pathways for Manufacturing in Rural Communities: Research Findings and Implications from an Investigation of New and Existing Programs in Northwest Florida

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Marcia Mardis Florida A&M University - Florida State University

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Faye Jones Florida A&M University - Florida State University

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In northwest Florida, advanced manufacturing (AM) jobs far outpace the middle-skilled technician workforce, though AM constitutes almost a quarter of the region’s total employment. From 2018-2028, of the available 4.6 million manufacturing jobs, less than half are likely to be filled due to talent shortages. This widening “skills gap” is attributed to many factors that range from new technologies in the AM industry (e.g., artificial intelligence, robotics), a need for newer recruiting methods, branding, and incentives in AM educational programs. Some professionals have even indicated that manufacturing industries and AM educational programs should be aligned more to reflect the needs of the industry. Even in the wake of Covid-19, when there have been over 658,000 manufacturing jobs lost due to market conditions, many states still have jobs that go unfilled further suggesting that there are challenges in filling AM technician positions. In a time when technicians in AM are in high demand and the number of graduates are in low supply, it is critical to identify whether AM education is meeting the needs of new professionals in the workforce and what they believe can be improved in these programs. This is especially true in rural locales, where economies with manufacturing industries are much more reliant on them. In the context of a NSF Advanced Technological Education (ATE), through a multi-method approach, we sought to understand: 1) Which AM competencies skills did participants report as benefiting them in gaining employment? 2) Which competencies are needed on the job to be a successful AM technician? 3) What are the ways in which AM preparation can be improved to enhance employment outcomes? This study’s results will expand the research base and curriculum content recommendations for regional AM education, as well as build regional capacity for AM program assessment and improvement by replicating, refining, and disseminating study approaches through further research, annual AM employer and educator meetings, and annual research skill-building academies in which stakeholders transfer research findings to practices and policies that empower rural NW Florida colleges. To date, research efforts have demonstrated that competency perceptions of faculty, employers, and new professionals have notable misalignments that have opportunities for AM program curriculum revision and enhancement. This paper summarizes five years of research output, emphasizing the impactful findings and dissemination products for ASEE community members, as well as opportunities for further research.

Mardis, M., & Jones, F. (2022, August), Assessing Educational Pathways for Manufacturing in Rural Communities: Research Findings and Implications from an Investigation of New and Existing Programs in Northwest Florida Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. 10.18260/1-2--42035

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