Nov 2, 2011

Kettering University and President Robert McMahan were featured at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry Oct. 25-26 at a seminar focused on ways to help Florida navigate its students toward the STEM jobs waiting for them.

An impressive line-up of education and business leaders gathered at STEM Summit III in Tampa Oct. 25-26 to explore how Florida is going to fill the workforce gap between today’s high school students and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs skills that will be required in a demanding global marketplace.

According to those attending STEM Summit III, that task is full of challenges.

“Universities are asleep in this country, all except Kettering” said Charles Puccini, President and CEO of Bauer Foundation Corp., a Florida corporation and the U.S. subsidiary of the world-wide operating BAUER Group based in Schrobenhausen, Germany. The BAUER Group is a world renowned foundation contractor, designer and builder of the world’s finest foundation equipment.  “Every contract my company tries to get requires higher technology or we don’t get the contract,” he said.  “It’s more for less every time, that’s always the push.  It’s part of why our country just keeps falling behind in the global marketplace.”

Puccini thinks experiential learning, like the kind nationally ranked co-op program at Kettering, is the solution.  “It’s why I helped bring Kettering co-op students to the region five years ago.  Co-op jobs, and hands-on training, are perfect for Florida’s workforce needs,” he added.

It’s also why STEM Summit III Moderator Paul Wahnish decided to showcase Kettering University at Florida’s elite STEM seminar for solving the technical workforce gap.  “Kettering prepares students for jobs that don’t exist yet,” Wahnish said.  His son, Mark, is a sophomore at Kettering, and his father-in-law was a Kettering graduate.  “Kettering produces a highly skilled, productive and efficient worker by connecting them with employers who don’t think innovation is a risk – it’s a requirement.”

It’s why Wahnish extended an invitation to Kettering President Robert McMahan to join the high-powered collaborative group delving into the technical workforce topic.  McMahan joined featured speakers that included:

  • Frank Brogan, Chancellor, Florida University System
  • Jon Dudas, President, FIRST Robotics and Former Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trade Mark Office
  • Leland Melvin, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Education and a NASA Astronaut on STS 122 & 129
  • Will Weatherford, Speaker Designate, Florida House of Representatives
  • Dr. Robert Cherinka, Senior IT Engineer at MITRE - Tampa
  • Duane Hume, Supervisor of IT/STEM Education, Florida Department of Education
  • Stu Rogel, President of The Tampa Bay Partnership
  • Chris Hart, CEO of Workforce Florida and
  • Gwen Griffin, COO of the Conrad Foundation.

“The nation suffers from a shortage of students preparing for careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), and this poses huge challenges for Florida companies,” President McMahan said.  “One of our jobs as educators is to increase the number of highly capable students in the STEM pipeline, which is profoundly important to our nation’s and to Florida’s competitive success in this global economy.”

McMahan, who is originally from Winter Park, Fla., said Kettering was founded almost 100 years ago on a hands-on experiential learning model in STEM.  “As a result our graduates are known for their ability to add value to the companies they join from day one.  We want to help play an important part in supplying Tampa and Florida companies with the talented graduates they need.  It’s in our DNA,” he concluded.

Astronaut Melvin said FIRST Robotics is also an important way to help meet the nation’s workforce needs.  “We’re all working together to make sure that every child has an opportunity,” Melvin said.  “We’ve all failed at something.  It’s what you do after you fail that’s important.  That’s why we’re working together to get the next generation ready.”

It’s an issue that expands beyond Florida’s state lines.  Experts predict that U.S. defense contractors will be 500,000 engineers short by the year 2015.  Workforce talent needs to be prepared in areas of business acumen, technical performance, leadership ability and an opportunity for tomorrow’s talent to be exposed to professional and personal growth.

Frank Brogan, chancellor of the Florida University System, summed it up this way: “you sense that now is the time.”

For more information on STEM Summit III, visit

For more on Kettering’s Experiential Learning through Co-op program, visit:

Contact: Patricia Mroczek