USF looks to train a workforce for a new age of manufacturing

Jay Timmons, second from left, is president of the National Association of Manufacturers who visited Tampa recently and toured the Amalie Oil Plant at Port Tampa Bay with Port CEO Paul Anderson, far left, and Amalie COO Rick Barkett.  Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida, is on the far right. PHOTO FROM NAM

By Yvette C. Hammett


TAMPA — Today’s manufacturing, with all of its science and high-tech gadgetry, melds nicely with universities that pump out physicists, chemists and material scientists.

Call them the new-age manufacturing workforce prepared to create the machines and other technology that will keep the industry growing.

While the University of South Florida isn’t offering any special degrees in manufacturing, it is training specialists prepared to provide the brain power and technological prowess needed for the growing manufacturing realm, said Peter Stilling, professor and assistant in the Office of the Provost.

Stilling hosted a panel discussion on the subject recently when National Association of Manufacturers President Jay Timmons visited Tampa.

Stilling said he has high hopes for a healthy partnership between USF and the National Association of Manufacturers.

“What I got from hosting that panel is that there are several million jobs throughout the country that need to be filled in manufacturing and specifically in Florida,” where many USF graduates would prefer to stay, Stilling said.

“For a lot of our students, their training is in thinking how to use a machine for chemical analysis, for example. They can use that knowledge to help keep the manufacturing sector growing.”

Timmons, who toured several manufacturing businesses here, including Amalie Oil at Port Tampa Bay, said there are 12,162 manufacturing firms in the state.

“We want to grow them and more business and employment across the country,” Timmons said.

Here in Florida, manufacturing includes everything from yachts to aircraft parts, electronics, computers and flexible steel pipes.

“As manufacturing grows, states will be competing to locate those new companies,” he said, so having a trained work force is key.

“You all in Tampa are very optimistic, very forward thinking,” Timmons said. “The business leaders there, we work very close with them and with Associated Industries of Florida and Tom Feeney, its CEO. He has put a premium on growing jobs” in Florida manufacturing.

And that’s where USF comes in.

“That partnership is a recipe for success,” Timmons said.

“Today’s modern manufacturing doesn’t always look like yesterday’s. We are sleek, high-tech and innovative and manufacturers continue to drive economic growth in the United States,” Timmons said. “Our industry is about the men and women who make things in America; it’s about their creativity and the potential we can unleash. Now is the time to embrace a manufacturing resurgence.”

Timmons concedes that for decades many manufacturing jobs left U.S. shores for foreign countries with cheap labor. It could happen again without the right policies out of Washington, D.C., including trade agreements that keep U.S. companies competitive, he said. Timmons said these are the issues he and his colleagues are constantly working to get in place.

“For every dollar invested in manufacturing in Florida, you get $1.44 to support other sectors and create more jobs,” he said. “As the federal government rights the ship, states are doing everything they can to take care of manufacturing investments” in this global economy. “We’ve got a whole plate full of things we need to focus on and we need to do that quickly to avoid losing our competitive advantage around the world.”

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