Advanced Manufacturing

With industrial sites ranging from hundreds to more than a thousand acres, including two certified mega sites and a skilled, talented workforce, the Jacksonville region has proven its suitability for advanced manufacturing.  As a result, many different types of products are made here, including coffee, contact lenses, aircraft and engines, medical devices, solar panels, wire rod, animatronics, windows, tactical armor, and batteries.

Industry Report

Industry Overview

Industry Deep Dive

Northeast Florida offers manufacturers several benefits. The area’s infrastructure, competitive business climate and access to talent, differentiate Jacksonville from other areas of the country.

Advanced Manufacturing leverages innovative technologies to improve existing products as well as create new ones. Today’s manufacturing roles required a blend of advanced skills, technical aptitude and experience.  This includes production activities that depend on information, automation, computation, software, sensing, and networking.  It offers modern, technology-driven career options in multiple different career paths  Jacksonville is also a fitting location to incubate new and emerging manufacturing operations.

When evaluating annual demand, Material Moving and Assembly/Production roles rank the highest.  Certainly, a variety of roles are needed in any manufacturing setting.  In the next several years, the industry will lose a significant number of skilled workers due to retirement, leaving many open jobs.

Today’s manufacturing roles required a blend of advanced skills, technical knowledge and experience.  Explore this page to determine how to become part of this high-growth industry that offers plentiful opportunities for growth and advancement.

Possible Career Paths
  • Aircraft and Aviation Components
  • Aerospace and Defense Maintenance and Repair
  • Metal Products
  • Machinery
  • Defense Technologies

Popular Job Titles
  • Production Operator
  • Production Packer
  • Manufacturing Technician
  • Plant Operator
  • Production Worker
  • Machinist
  • Ironworker
  • Construction Worker
  • Industrial Electrician
  • Machine Operator
  • Chemical Compounder
  • Production Technician
  • Production Supervisor
  • Materials Handler

Advanced Manufacturing Companies in the Region

There is tremendous opportunity and job security in the advanced manufacturing field.

Alex JamesProcess Technician, Johnson and Johnson Vision

I can’t even describe the level of joy I’m feeling doing something that I know my dad’s so proud of.

Shannon BeechumFleet Readiness/SHR State Apprenticeship Student

If it wasn't for Mr. Wells (Baldwin Middle-High School teacher) and the Aeronautical Dual Enrollment program, I wouldn't have known about or applied for Embry-Riddle.

Ashlyn MomentEmbry-Riddle Spaceflight Operations Student

If high school graduates have interest and motivation to learn and work in a shipyard, they can begin at better than minimum wages with great benefits.

Ernie AglugubBAE Systems Training Specialist

We are always looking to attract and retain great talent…in high-demand-good paying careers in manufacturing.

Lake RayPresident, First Coast Manufacturers Association

Alex James

Process Technician, Johnson and Johnson Vision

Alex James admits he wasn't living up to his full potential. But, he did not understand that his mother wanted him to live his best life. James found an opportunity to turn his life around and a career pathway in advanced manufacturing at Job Corps.

Jobs Corps is a career and technical training program for students 16 to 24 years old. James' grandmother was a graduate of the Job Corps program. His mother, who knew about the program, encouraged her son to enroll and live on campus.

"My mom was serious, yet so supportive," said James, a process Technician at Johnson and Johnson Vision (J&J Vision), the maker of ACUVUE Brand Contact Lenses. The company's contact lenses are available in 100 countries.

James is one of the first participants to graduate from the J&J Vision partnership program at the Jobs Corps Center. The global lens manufacturer, headquartered in Jacksonville, invested in manufacturing technology training at Job Corps. J&J Vision placed state-of-the-art equipment at the center and provides the necessary support and mentors to make the program successful.

While at the Jobs Corps, James earned a Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) certification with plans to go into the heating and cooling industry. Just days after earning his HVAC certification, he learned about the new J&J Vision advanced manufacturing program. He was intrigued by the opportunity, so he stayed on at the Job Corps and enrolled in the program.

"There is a tremendous opportunity and job security in the advanced manufacturing field," James said.

After graduating from the program, James started working at J&J Vision in March 2022. As a process technician, he is responsible for diagnosing problems with machines, completing audits and performing inspections.

"Each day is different - I never know what to expect," James said. "There are some days where you're troubleshooting and diagnostic skills come into play."

James enjoys his work and likes that his job requires him to draw upon his critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

James said, "This program has brought out the best in me."

At one time, James did not envision a career in advanced manufacturing. Now, he is working to earn certifications that will demonstrate his knowledge and understanding of the core competencies of manufacturing production. He is also looking at future industry training advancement opportunities.

"At Johnson & Johnson Vision, I am helping produce products that make life better," James said. "I see myself growing and taking on more responsibility at this company."

The Jacksonville Jobs Corp Center offers work-based learning programs in 10 trades. The programs offer on-the-job training and are available at no cost. James is grateful for the Jobs Corps/J&J Vision partnership, his mother's support and his faith in God.

"The program changed me in a multitude of ways," James said. "I've become more focused on my future and much more determined as a result of the success I've gained from my time being in the program."

Shannon Beechum

SJR State Apprenticeship Program

Student's dream of being aircraft electrician takes flight Beechum benefits from SJR State's partnership with Fleet Readiness.

ORANGE PARK – Shannon Beechum's interest in airplanes and how they work inspired her dream of joining the Navy and becoming an aircraft electrician.

Although she didn't enlist in the Navy, Beechum, 19, is still living her dream of becoming an aircraft electrician via a partnership between St. Johns River State College and Fleet Readiness Center Southeast, a program that began a year ago as SJR State and FRCSE sought a means for training the artisans of the future.

Through this hands-on, paid training opportunity, students begin at a rate of $15.60 an hour and are guaranteed a federal job upon completion of the program. The apprentices are prepared for trade jobs such as electronics mechanic, machinist, sheet metal mechanic, painting and aircraft mechanic.

I'm doing exactly what I wanted to do," said Beechum. "And I'm getting paid to go to school. It's unbelievable. It's a blessing.

Beechum attends classes at the Orange Park campus, and although the course content is challenging and keeps her quite busy, she remains thrilled about her career path and is grateful for the program's exceptional instructors as well as the tremendous support from her classmates. Beechum said that working together on the material with her classmates makes all the difference for her.

Another plus for Beechum is having daily, relatable conversations with her dad about the apprenticeship. Beechum's dad, Terry, retired from FRCSE after working for the company for nearly 40 years. He was the one who introduced his daughter to the apprenticeship. Beechum said it's hard to put into words what it means to her to be following in her dad's footsteps. "I can't even describe the level of joy I'm feeling doing something that I know my dad's so proud of," she said.

Beechum believes the apprenticeship program is also a wonderful opportunity for those not sure about their future. "I think it's great for people who aren't sure what they want to do in life, especially if the military was their intended route or they just have a simple interest in airplanes," she said. "You don't need any prior knowledge. You just submit an application, and they train you. It's definitely great for your future.

According to Anna Lebesch, Vice President of Talent Development at JAXUSA Partnership, "Advanced manufacturing, particularly in the area of aviation, is an industry that JAXUSA identified as one of our region's assets, needs and opportunities. Therefore, it is vital that we support new business and education partnerships, which strategically develop an ongoing talent pipeline. This program with FRCSE and SJR State is an excellent example of our region's employers, colleges and school districts working together to change the future of workforce development," Lebesch said.

For more information regarding the apprenticeship program, call FRCSE at (904) 790-7536 or email them at [email protected]. For more information about additional engineering programs at SJR State, call 386-312-4232.

Embry Riddle Aeronautical Dual Enrollment Program

Providing High-Quality Educational Opportunities for All Students

Embry Riddle Aeronautical Dual Enrollment Program

Baldwin Middle-High School, part of the Duval County School District, is dedicated to providing high-quality educational opportunities for all students. The school is a place where every member is inspired and equipped for success in post-secondary education, a career, and in life.

Former Principal Dr. Denise Hall, a 33-year veteran of education, indicated that there were very few honors academy programs offering aeronautics curriculum throughout the nation. So, when the opportunity arose to create a dual enrollment program with Embry Riddle Aeronautical University located in Daytona Beach, she seized the opportunity. After hiring local teacher Mr. John Wells, the program developed into its existing structure. Mr. Wells has taught the program for 7 years. In that time, Wells has seen students take what they learned in class and create a career pathway in aviation and aerospace.

Baldwin students enrolled in the Embry Riddle Aeronautical Dual Enrollment Program can take 6 college classes to earn up to 18 college credits. They can also exit the classroom with two certifications: Unmanned Drone and Small Pilots license.
Foundational work begins in Middle School with preparation via math and science courses such as pre-algebra, algebra and computer science. “I actively try to recruit students. Robotics is another way to engage students,” says Wells.

Students entering the Embry Riddle Aeronautical Dual Enrollment Program take a series of courses preparing them for certification. For example, as freshmen, students engage in robotics and science. As sophomores, they take a semester of Principles of Aerospace Science and a semester of Unmanned Vehicles. Juniors take a course in Unmanned Aircraft Systems and an Intro to Health, Occupational and Transportation Safety course. Ultimately, seniors study Introduction to Aerospace Safety and Principles of Management.

Wells encourages his students to seek out internships to supplement their learning. “Internships at NAS JAX are available. Employment is great because students are sent to school to learn a trade and then guaranteed a job upon completing a program.”
Students are pursuing this pathway further after high school graduation. Wells said, “Several Boeing employees have come from the class. Two obtained a pilot’s license. One female student is entering Embry Riddle with another female student completing this year.”

Students wishing to pursue the pathway can continue schooling at Embry Riddle which offers Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science, Aeronautics, Aerospace & Occupational Safety, Aerospace Engineering, Aerospace Physiology and Air Traffic Management, and Astronomy & Astrophysics. Students can complete an Aircraft Dispatcher certificate program or pursue masters and PhD programs.

Student success springs from earning aviation certifications even if a student chooses another pathway. For example, one Baldwin Middle-High School graduate obtained an accounting job at Jacksonville University because of the certification. While unrelated to the job duties, the aeronautical certifications on that individual’s resume distinguished him to the hiring manager.

Wells indicated that, “As an instructor, the goal is to have student complete the courses and obtain an industry certification as well as the college credits. But, it is rewarding to see them grow from middle through high school and all they can accomplish.”
One such student, Ashlyn Moment emphasized how much the program set her up for success at Embry Riddle. “Mr. Wells is one of the reasons why I am who I am today. He not only cares about what goes on in his classroom but who we are when we step out of that door. If it wasn't for him and this program, I would have never known what Embry-Riddle was or even applied.”

Ashlyn is now in her fourth year at Embry-Riddle majoring in Spaceflight Operations with two minors in Human Factors and Aviation Safety. She is the President of a collegiate chapter of a national organization on our campus, The Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals.

Ashlyn’s goal is to graduate in the Spring of 2023 and enter the Air Force to become a Space Operations Officer. With taking this career path, she will formulate space operation policies and activities and establishing training requirements and performance standards.

Ultimately, dual enrollment courses led to a solid career pathway choice.

Tyler Wilkinson

Certified Production Technician

Tyler Wilkinson’s career pathway inspiration stems from early opportunities working at his father’s automotive shop. There, he learned fundamentals of understanding how instruments and equipment work, as well as diagnostics and troubleshooting.

Tyler completed the automotive program at Palatka High School, passing all 10 National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Certification exams and the Florida Automobile Dealers Association (FADA) dealership exam. At the beginning of Tyler’s senior year, he transferred to Crescent City Jr/Sr High School due to a move. There, he completed the welding program and became American Welding Society (AWS) certified.

At Crescent City, Tyler was selected for the Manufacturing Prep Accelerated Program (MPAP) at St. Johns River State College based upon previous achievements and interests. Previously disinterested in college, Tyler realized that trades can have college-level classes, too. He felt the opportunity was an excellent fit. So, he enrolled in and completed the MPAP. The program prepares students for the Certified Production Technician 4.0 (CPT) designation. Those who pass the CPT certification exams earn 15 credits (one semester) toward the Associate of Science degree in Engineering Technology.

“This program taught me a lot about the importance of safety, as well as quality, and that everything else is constructed around these two key principles,” Tyler said. “Personally, I enjoy the machinery and the precision of the instruments and equipment. I’d rather hold a wrench than a pen, because I like that mental to physical problem solving.”

While Tyler plans to return to college and pursue additional education, he has found employment as a result of his skills and credentials. Tyler is currently at Vac-Con®, a world-wide vacuum truck dealers network. Vac-Con® sells industrial vacuums, hydro-excavation trucks and trailer mounted jetters, hydro-excavators and combination machines. At Vac-Con®, Tyler works in sub-assembly, where he builds the subframes that have been welded by another department. He notes the excellent benefits and pay that will help him achieve has many life goals.

Tyler was driven to work at Vac-Con® following a tour two years earlier during Manufacturing Month. Tours are coordinated by First Coast Manufacturers Association’s Workforce Development Committee and allow high school students to have a first-hand view of manufacturing opportunities available in Northeast Florida.

Due to his interest in a hands-on occupation, Tyler was driven to take advantage of this opportunity via a CARES Act, Rapid Credentialing Grant Opportunity from the Florida Department of Education and the SJR State. He said, “It was my way of getting the feel for the manufacturing industry. Financially, it was very important because college was the furthest from my mind.”

Content for this piece comes from an SJR State Student Highlight which originally appeared on the school's website and Facebook page.