Business & Economy

UWF partners with Okaloosa County to expand Northwest Florida manufacturing and engineering workforce

The University of West Florida, in collaboration with the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County and CareerSource Okaloosa Walton, is currently underway to expand TeCMEN, the Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network. Currently, the partnership is conducting a needs assessment to determine which five advanced manufacturing certification training opportunities per year will be offered for employees of TeCMEN member companies. Launching this month, these trainings will up-skill the workforce and generate a positive impact on the future of advanced manufacturing in Northwest Florida.

“Up-skill partnerships, like the one formed in Okaloosa County, ultimately increase worker productivity, which is the foundation of economic growth,” said Nathan Sparks, executive director EDC of Okaloosa County. “The expanded UWF program offerings will become the centerpiece of the new TeCMEN Skills Training Partnership.”

For more than 20 years, TeCMEN has proven to be an effective forum for area businesses operating in the technology, engineering and manufacturing sectors, as well as workforce and educational partners, to collaborate with one another. Since 2010, UWF has delivered skills training education in support of technical certifications to more than 170 people aligned with TeCMEN. The total value of UWF certifications provided to members in the past four years exceeds $230,000. The new recurring funding, in addition to curricula developed and tested by industry professionals, will enable the systemic distribution of manufacturing excellence to businesses both large and small.

“Traditional education acquisitions made by small businesses or individual students are more costly when compared with the purchasing power of a network like TeCMEN,” said Dwight Howard, TeCMEN chair and COO of J&P Khamken Industries. “Small businesses need access to manufacturing certifications for their employees so the company can compete effectively for sub-contracts with larger aerospace firms. We applaud Senator Don Gaetz and UWF President Judy Bense for recognizing these needs and giving us the tools necessary to make an impact.”

Florida Senate President Don Gaetz championed state support for the University to institute recurring certification opportunities related to aviation manufacturing. Additionally, CareerSource officials, including Linda Sumblin, assisted in supporting and securing more than half of the education that will occur in Okaloosa County – the region’s center of aerospace manufacturing.

“The Florida Legislature is committed to linking education opportunities to real jobs in the real economy, and I am so grateful for leaders in academia like President Judy Bense who not only support this initiative, but take the proactive steps to link specific educational programs to workforce needs in our local communities,” said Senate President Don Gaetz. “Educational partnerships with organizations like the Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network will ensure that our students walk across the graduation stage with a diploma, a good job and the skills needed to compete and lead in the global economy.”

Certifications that support manufacturing include Lean Six Sigma; AS9100RC – a commercial aerospace quality standard; Project Management Professional; among others.

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