Russell Henderlite, MSSC, CPT, is an instructor of Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics Technology at Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology, a public magnet career and college preparatory high school in Jacksonville.
The outlook for advanced manufacturing and technology is strong fo rboth industry growth and job growth with the need for skilled workers. In Jacksonville, advanced manufacturing employment is outpacing the national average.
Henderlite is a dedicated supporter of advanced manufacturing and technology education, recognizing it as essential to providing a skilled workforce. He is the founding instructor for the robotics and advanced manufacturing academy at Frank H. Peterson, where he introduces and attracts students to manufacturing careers and educational pathways.
Prior to becoming a high school teacher, Henderlite served 21 years in the U.S. Navy, where he was involved in nuclear power plant operations and maintenance. His experiences, first as a nuclear prototype instructor and later as a nuclear repair coordinator, inspired his decision to become a teacher when he retired from the Navy.
"I was always teaching and training in my Navy positions, and I was able to take these skills and move into a position in education," Henderlite said.
At Frank H. Peterson, Henderlite is the Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program's lead teacher. The program, which provides students with a foundation of knowledge and technically oriented experiences in the study of the principles and applications of robotics engineering, helps students develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving ability and communication skills.
The CTE Program includes coursework in safety, quality and measurement, pneumatics, hydraulics and welding. Students learn the skills and expertise necessary so that they are prepared to take the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) national certification exam.
"The MSSC national certification exams are challenging," Henderlite said. "Our school is one of only nine schools in Florida that teaches this program."
Students at Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology earn a Career and Professional Education (CAPE) certification and a high school diploma. Students graduate prepared to enter the workforce and/or pursue higher education.
Advanced Placement courses are also offered. In addition to their high school diploma, students may earn an Associate of Science Degree in Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering from Florida State College at Jacksonville. The partnership provides students with mentors, hands-on work experience and consideration for employment opportunities at the end of the program.
Henderlite's enthusiasm for manufacturing and technology education and his students' success extends beyond the classroom. He serves as a coach in the FIRST Tech Challenge competition and has been actively involved with FIRST Robotics with Renaissance JAX. These and other after-school initiatives create excitement and engagement, helping students learn valuable skills for the future.
"I encourage students to be open to opportunties and not to limit themselves," Henderlite said. "The skill sets are transferable from one career to another."
The knowledge, training and MSSC certifications earned from the CTE program have prepared Henderlite's students for employment and their future careers. The success stories include a paid student internship at Johnson & Johnson Vision, a position as a 3-D printing engineer at SAFT after earning a college engineering degree and employment at Special Tools Solutions, a Jacksonville machine shop.