Friday, December 9, 2016

U.S. Department of Education Launches EdSim Challenge to Enhance Student Learning

On November 2, 2016, the United States Department of Education (USDOE) launched the EdSim Challenge, a competition that calls for academic virtual reality simulations that can be used to educate and train students in a particular field of study while also building students’ academic, technical, and employability skills.

The purpose of the challenge is to spark the development virtual and augmented reality educational simulations that merge existing technologies with future technologies with content that provides skill-building opportunities while embedding assessments to determine students’ content comprehension.  According to the USDOE, “students who participate in digital learning simulations for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning had a 23 percent higher achievement rating than those who do not.”1

The submission deadline for simulation concepts is January 17, 2017.  A panel of judges from multiple disciplines will evaluate each concept based on the criteria outlined in the Challenge’s guidelines.  The judges will select no more than five finalists to proceed to the Virtual Accelerator phase of the competition.  The five finalists will receive $50,000 and mentorship that will help to perfect their concept and to build a prototype.  The Challenge winner will receive $430,000 as well as prizes from the Challenge sponsors.

To learn more visit the EdSim Challenge site:

Friday, February 20, 2015

Shortage of skilled workers

Tampa, FL - February 20, 2015. The shortage of skills workers has been reported for years. The specific shortages are tied to certain industries such as construction and manufacturing. In Florida, it is not surprising to hear about shortages in the construction industry. However, for some it is surprising to hear about shortages in the manufacturing industry in the greater Tampa bay area. In both cases though, the shortage of skilled workers appears to be a lingering issue in the Tampa bay area as reported by the Tampa Bay Times in two related stories noted below.

Upper Tampa Bay manufacturers in need of 'skilled labor'. By Karen Ring, Times Correspondent
Thursday, February 19, 2015 10:18pm. Town 'n Country. Help wanted. That's the message from the Upper Tampa Bay Manufacturers Association, with one caveat. Skilled help.

Roy Sweatman, president of Southern Manufacturing Technologies, a Town 'N Country-based manufacturer of components for aerospace and defense industries, serves on the association's board of directors and is hopeful the group can address the skills gap that is plaguing the industry.

"The lack of skilled labor is really what is keeping us from growing," he said.

Roy is not alone in his concern. A 2013 survey of 109 manufacturers in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties found that 40 percent were experiencing limited growth due to a lack of skilled labor.

Read the full story on the Tampa Bay Times: Upper Tampa Bay manufacturers in need of 'skilled labor'

Florida's surging construction industry faces worker shortage. Jeff Harrington, Times Staff Writer. Friday, February 20, 2015 3:00am. TAMPA — Since joining his father's construction crew when he was 16, Casey Ellison has ridden 21 years of Florida building booms and busts.

This time, though, the recovery is playing out a different way. As both commercial and residential development picks up, construction managers are having a hard time filling their crews, particularly subcontractors like electricians, plumbers, drywallers and carpenters.

"We don't seem to be bringing the workforce back in the market like we've typically seen in the past," Ellison said. The shortage "is a little more profound now."

Part of the problem is the loss of experienced workers, who fled Florida to pursue the fracking boom in states like North Dakota and Texas. Part is tied to a demographic squeeze: aging, experienced Baby Boomers are retiring and their younger comrades who have been shell-shocked by the recession aren't embracing building trades as a career.

Read the full story on the Tampa Bay Times: Florida's surging construction industry faces worker shortage

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Apprenticeships are getting another look

Although apprenticeships have longstanding historical roots in vocational education and training, in the United States the concept has remained largely underutilized. Apprenticeship combines on-the-job training and complementary instruction in collaboration with an institution offering technical education or also provided at participating companies. Through an apprenticeship, workers can apply what they learn in practical ways and work on tasks typically carried out in skilled occupations. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "apprenticeship programs can be sponsored by individual employers, joint employer and labor groups, and/or employer associations." The concept of apprenticeships is slowly getting another look in recent years and is becoming the object of stories in the public media. As an example, learn more about related developments in the Tampa Bay area as reported on the two stories below.

Tampa Bay Times - February 14, 2014. By Richard Danielson. TAMPA — Terry Shipley was studying business administration at Polk State College when he noticed that acquaintances who had studied the same thing weren't necessarily working in the field. Instead, they had jobs in skilled trades like pipe fitting and electrical work. Shipley, 24, did some research and decided to switch to a five-year apprenticeship program offered in Tampa through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 915. Now in his first year, Shipley is working toward becoming a journeyman wireman capable of making up to $26 an hour in industrial settings. He plans to go back to college once he's done, and the skill should make him "more of an asset." It could even lead to his becoming a contractor. "Right now," he said, "I have a more solid path."

This is the kind of story Tampa Bay area labor unions increasingly want to tell. So they are working to grow programs for apprentices who get on-the-job training, mentoring and classroom instruction while working for a sponsoring employer.

Read the full story on the Tampa Bay Times: Unions ask Tampa to help grow skilled-trade apprenticeships.

Tampa Bay Times - November, 14, 2013. By Ivan Penn. TAMPA — Scaling 45-foot poles with little more than a utility belt and soaring even higher in a cherry picker seem hard enough tasks for an apprentice. Now try it under the watchful eyes of your company's senior executives and U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, who visited Tampa Electric's electrical lineman training facility Thursday. "Man, I was watching you," Perez told 26-year-old Jonathan Sanchez after he raced up the utility pole with a 45-pound belt around his waist as if he was just climbing a flight of stairs. "You're fast."

The program was everything Perez, the nation's jobs chief since July, said he had hoped to see on his trip across the country to find programs that train people for middle-class jobs. Apprentices such as Sanchez train to maintain and repair electrical power transmission systems and electrical equipment. After the program, they begin earning about $70,000 a year plus the potential for overtime. The state's third-largest investor-owned utility, Tampa Electric serves 678,000 customers and employs 2,400 workers, including 120 linemen. It is owned by Tampa's TECO Energy.

Read the full story on the Tampa Bay Times: Tampa Electric's apprentice lineman program catches eye of U.S. labor secretary.