HI-TEC Conference - Award Winners


photo of Ernie Friend


Ernie Friend

Florida State College
Jacksonville, Florida

Ernie Friend is an Instructional Program Manager for Information Technologies at Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) in Jacksonville, Florida. FSCJ is a values-driven institution committed to ensuring that all students at the institution have an extraordinarily positive overall experience. Mr. Friend holds a B.S. degree in Electronics Management from Southern Illinois University and an M.S. in Cybersecurity from the University of South Florida.

He has worked at FSCJ since 1994 and been involved in many phases of manufacturing, engineering technology (ET), computer networking infrastructure management and design, and cybersecurity. He also managed the ET and advanced manufacturing programs for a number of years. For ET and advanced manufacturing, Mr. Friend worked closely with FLATE in restructuring and updating those programs and expanding student options in the degree plan to meet regional industry needs. With support from several large federal grants, Mr. Friend further enhanced those programs by developing strong business partnerships. With FLATE, Mr. Friend developed and built small programmable controller trainers designed with high schools in mind because of their low cost and simplicity.

He has taught FLATE workshops at HI-TEC conferences using these same trainers and has used the trainers with his local high school partners.


Educator Bus Tour

directed by John Sherwood
Columbus State Community College
Columbus, Ohio

Columbus State Community College’s Educator Bus Tour program epitomizes the important role two-year colleges can play in advancing workforce development and creating meaningful connections and dialog between K-12 educators and local industry partners. In October 2017, Columbus State facilitated a full-day interactive bus tour designed to provide an opportunity for decision-makers and influencers from regional high schools to learn more about the growing fields of advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, logistics, and alternative energy automotive service/repair. Twenty-five individuals—a superintendent, building principals, assistant principals, directors, teachers, career specialists, and other staff members representing fourteen school districts in the central Ohio region—participated in the tour.

Featuring tours at Cardinal Health, City of Dublin Fleet Management, and Honda Manufacturing, the tour provided an opportunity for participating educators to engage in discussions with industry representatives at those facilities. Columbus 2020, the economic development organization for the eleven-county Columbus Region, provided an overview of current economic development activity in the region. In feedback after the event, many participants noted that they were surprised by the large number of job openings in those fields and the demand for workers with two-year degrees. The program has been recognized by the Ohio Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation and was featured as a best practice in the office’s first statewide In-Demand Jobs Week.


Celia I. Merzbacher

National Laboratory
Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Celia Merzbacher has been a member of the Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge Center (NACK) advisory board since 2009. At the time she joined the NACK board, Dr. Merzbacher was Vice President for Innovative Partnerships for the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC). During her initial time on the NACK board, Dr. Merzbacher helped to guide NACK's efforts to create nanotechnology workforce infrastructure across the country.

Because of her exemplary work on the board, Dr. Merzbacher was asked in 2012 to assume the role of chair and has served in that capacity since that time. In her role as chair, and because of her great wealth of experience, Dr. Merzbacher has helped to refine many proposed initiatives, objectives, and implementation plans. Her advice and work have been invaluable to the success of MNT workforce initiatives for the country.

Dr. Merzbacher has assisted NACK in its efforts to provide nanotechnology workforce education materials for the country; establish workforce education partnerships; create a national remote access outreach network to connect the research, technical education, and K-12 communities; and establish international nanotechnology workforce education standards and individual stackable certificates (a work in progress).

Dr. Merzbacher is presently assisting NACK in its efforts to create nanotechnology employment opportunities for the returning veteran community and enhance underrepresented minority participation in MNT education.