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by Brigitte Hoarau

As the manufacturing industry expands in the southeast region, so does the demand for manufacturing professionals, a field that has recently seen a significant shortage in skilled labor. And while some companies rely on on-the-job training and skills improvements for entry-level employees to grow with the companies’ needs, many workers seek specific knowledge or skills before they enter the job market. Daytona State College has offered manufacturing-related programs to such students since 1956, and has expanded its offerings to fill the changing needs of Volusia and Flagler county industries over
the decades.

With five campus locations, Daytona State served 27,000 students last academic year, with over 100 degrees and programs, some of which fuel the local manufacturing industry. The selection of programs reflects both the variety of students’ needs and interests and the array of local opportunities. Those who seek four-year or two-year degrees might opt for one of the Bachelors of Science degrees in Engineering Technology or Associate of Science degrees in Engineering Technology or Information Technology. These programs provide students with a broader knowledge of translating theoretical concepts into functional technologies as they apply to fields such as manufacturing.

Many students are looking for more focus than full degree programs entail, and instead choose the skilled trades and technology programs at the college. In addition to their full degree programs, Daytona State offers certificate programs that require anywhere from one week to one year to complete and, according to the college’s Associate Vice President for the College of Workforce, Continuing and Adult Education, Dr. Sherryl Weems, culminating into “immediate access to a ready and welcoming workforce.” Such programs include the one-week Fiberglass Fabrication Bootcamp offered through the college’s Center for Business and Industry, as well as other certificate programs in fabrication and machining and welding technologies.

The shorter paths these programs entail are still “filled with rigor and high expectations” for performance, Weems says, adding that the “credentialing, which many students seek is based on mastery.” Salaries and job placement rates for those programs are evidence that the college’s approach works. In 2016-17, 100% of Machining and 93% of Applied Welding students who completed the programs landed jobs in the industry.

Most students who enter those programs are self-directed; having recognized the potential of the industry in Volusia County, they seek Daytona State’s guidance through career and job search offices, which support students “during every step of their journey toward program completion,” Weems explains, and “every skilled trades and technology program is guided by an advisory committee of industry representatives [who] assist with connecting students to industry, job opportunities and industry exposure.”

In addition, area students benefit from the college’s involvement with state job training programs such as the Florida Trade Program (FTP) and the Florida East Coast TechHire (FECT) program, which began with a $3.7 million grant from the White House’s TechHire Initiative. Through these state and national programs, Daytona State offers opportunities for accelerated credentialing and paid internships in manufacturing and IT. The current incarnation of FECT is MY TechHire, which provides this kind of credential training to applicants looking to upgrade their skillsets or return to the workforce, explains Weems.

Graduation, job placement, and salary rates from Daytona State’s degree and certification programs related to manufacturing are on par with the statewide average for individuals seeking such training. Certain data, however, suggests that some of those who earn credentials in manufacturing earn higher salaries than the area average. A 2017 report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics showed the average salary for all Volusia county residents is $38,981, while the same-year Daytona State cohort who certified in the Postsecondary Adult Vocational Applied Welding Technology program earned an average of $41,180, and those who earned a BS in Engineering Technology earned an average of $54,356.

Helping community residents raise their career potential and earning power is part of Daytona State’s mission. According to a 2018 report by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Bureau of Workforce Statistics Economic Research, a number of occupations in fabrication and industrial engineering served by Daytona State College are expected to grow by 14% by 2026 in Flagler and Volusia Counties. To meet this kind of demand, the college’s state-of-the-art facility, the Advanced Technology College, which opened in Daytona Beach in 2000, continues to evolve to offer more programs in the design, technology, engineering, and manufacturing fields, including dual enrollment programs for middle- and high-school students, and a 3-D Manufacturing specialization for the A.S. in Engineering Technology degree, added last fall.

In Volusia County, programs like those at Daytona State College help bridge the gap between the manufacturing industry’s needs and community residents’ pursuit of knowledge and opportunity.

Brigitte Hoarau is an English Professor and freelance writer. She earned a BA in Film & Video and an MFA in Creative Writing: Fiction.