Teaching Machining in Today’s world


I am just completing my 4th year of full-time instruction in Precision and CNC Machining here at Suncoast Technical College – formerly know as Sarasota County Technical Institute.  It has been more work that I thought but I do enjoy a lot of the outcomes and effect I may have on our community.  I do spend too much time at work but maybe its the nature of me or as a machinist.

I did not come from a family of machinists. My dad was the fruit and vegetable guy at local supermarket.   I attended college level classes in high school but never took my SAT’s. I did ok in high school but I had no plan in 1972.  I then worked menial jobs , like forklift operator, auto parts sales and delivery, dishwasher at the mall.  Then one day I ran into someone at the auto parts store – a friend.  He said that he was not driving truck anymore and he got training to be a machinist and told me me “you should check it out “.  Well I did. It was called Boston Tooling and Machining Institute – a NTMA school in an industrial park.  I took a small test and passed. Plus it was a free school sponsored by Boston Tooling Association. So I left my auto parts job in 1983.

 

We learned some math, blueprint reading and manual machining on donated equipment, Mill and lathe. Taught the basics for 4 months and then put in the field. I ended up at a machine tool dealer – Methods Machine Tools in the special projects dept. for 2 years and after that I worked at a job shop called Dyko Tool and Die in Waltham, Mass. I was thrust into the new world of machining – Computerized machining or CNC.

Since then I have always been a machinist – it fit me like a glove.  I never knew I had the talent for it. The CNC machining was perfect for me. I learned to write code for the CNC machine and use my manual machining skills to make parts.  I even moved to NH and worked at a 5 axis CNC shop in 1990. It was cutting edge technology. 27 years ago. I have worked at many places making brain surgery equipment, Hip implants, Race car parts, custom motorcycle equipment, Defense department equipment and some things I had no idea. Secret stuff I guess.

I always worked , always had a job good times and bad. Last place I worked was at Lockheed- Martin in Orlando, Florida right next to SeaWorld. 3000 people at a secure defense facility on CNC equipment that costs $950,000. I look back to 1972 and can’t believe I did all that and people trusted me.  Best compliment I had was a former boss, Bill Lobdell from Sanders Associates, Manchester, NH.   I would report to him on what I was doing and asking permission for changes or updates. He told me just tell me at the end of the night as I trust you. You do a good job.  Bill is gone now but I still remember.

I worked with many great people and machinists. Learned a lot. In 2013 I had a chance to teach near my new home in Sarasota, Florida.  Teach a brand new program to help workforce development for needs in machining.  I met with the head of the manufacturing association at SAMA – Jennifer Behrens Schmidt.  I had written a paper about teaching in the modern world of machining, how we needed more CNC and less high level manual traditional training.   She totally agreed so I knew it would be a good fit.  I became a teacher for Sarasota county in industrial arts.

Now I am ending my 4th year and will have trained about 85 apprentices in a one year 1200 hour program called Precision and CNC Automation – under the frameworks of Florida Dept of Education. I had to develop the program myself with help with advisory guidance from Sarasota and Manatee Manufacturing Association – so that what I taught aligned with what companies needed.  I also had the great pleasure of meeting Bob Skodinsky from HTEC – Haas Technical Education Centers. He actually works for this national organization to promote machining education that is based in California but lived right down the street in Sarasota.  He had saw that school was staring up a new program after the previous one had been dumped 10 years previous. He helped guide them with purchase of 2 Haas CNC machines and a software program called Immerse 2 Learn – I2L.

So I showed up 3 weeks later to a class of 18. Only problem was we had no equipment. Just 3 books and I2L software. Machines are on order. waiting and waiting . We waited from August until Jan. I had to purchase more equipment also. With direction from SAMA I purchased traditional machining equipment – 2 mills – 2 lathes and 2 surface grinders and a drill press, plus saws.  I added a 2 axis Hybrid CNC Trak Mill and a Haas VF2 with 4th axis.  We also setup up an inspection department with necessary gauges needed.  By Jan 2014 we had power and a load of metal donated from Sun Hydraulics.

In the mean time we did constant CNC software training,  We also had 12 Haas CNC simulators and used them to hand write G code programs – the common language used by the CNC machine. We also did field trips to visit manufacturing facilities. I tried to keep the focus away from the empty shop or as educators call it ” Lab”. No one left. Well we finished the year and got 100% employment.

So now here it sit. Wondering whats next. I added 2 seats of MasterCam for CNC programming,  Then added a 300 hr Fast Track CNC night class. Companies would send us people who needed more training. This year we added MasterCam night school for associate level certification. Finally one of our original sponsors – Career Edge Funders started an internship funding program for apprentices we needed to put in the field. Career Edge also sponsored Soft Skill Training for the last 2 years as well.

I now have even more companies calling me and I cannot fill all the jobs. Word has got out about our success and manufacturing is just very busy. We also produced the most NIMS certifications in the State of Florida.  (National Institute of Metalworking Skills).

Now what? – Well 4 years ago I had a thought on how we should teach and align it with the needs of my area.  We only had one year to do this with a class. I would follow my model of how I learned, not like what other schools used to teach. Some guys I worked with had only traditional training and showed me projects they made like a tool makers vice and hardened 1-2-3 Blocks and more.  I didn’t think we needed to teach that because it was old technology but I did think it was important to learn using Manual equipment along with learning about CNC.  The same processes applied only the CNC was faster and had much better control.  In my experience the traditional machinist as a high level job was being phased out.  But many companies still expected you to know how to run that equipment as needed but they would make the high level stuff on CNC.  Manual machines are considered to be secondary equipment.  I still thought it was a good idea to learn with hands on. To get the feel of cutting metal,  learn good setups and techniques and then apply them when in CNC land.  I would only have them to simple projects like Bore a hole on Vertical mill and Lathe.  Single point thread using a tool they hand ground. Make a spacer using another tool they hand ground on the lathe. They learned quickly about tooling and relief angles etc.  When you talk about an inserted tool to a student they don’t get why it cuts, it just does. When they made a tool they got it. So manual machining became a way to teach machining in its pure form.  We also had tool and die and Plastic injection mold-makers so they wanted students to know surface grinding as well.

 

On to the CNC machine.  Now We start here setting up jobs that are proven programs. Setup tools, offsets and get it running safely and efficiently. Then measure the final result plus read them prints.   Then we progress to hand writing a couple of simple programs plus setup and run like before. We also use the latest technology using wireless probing  for setting up tool coordinates but we also teach old school methods as 50% of the companies still do it that way. I want them to be employable in many situations. Some shops have a mixture of old and new CNC.  Also if the probe dies you can still get it running with old school methods (edge finder and gage blocks – not a fan of the paper method for tool touch off).

We are earning NIMS certifications along the way. They must make a part that passes a third party inspection.  Using various methods.  Some tests are on CNC operation and maintenance.  The final tests are hand written CNC programs for lathe and mill per NIMS requirements.  I believe the people on the shop floor should understand G code so they can make adjustments on the fly to keep quality and production going. No need to go reprogram all the time with Cad/Cam. What if the boss wants to move a job to another machine?  Our guys can edit quickly what is needed because they can think in code.  They know how to calculate proper feeds and speeds. They get used to trouble shooting problems and helping the new people.

When they get in the programming room and become programmers they know what good code is by a quick scan. We all know they have $$$simulation software that helps keep them crashes down but some smaller shops run on a tight budget so you work with what you have.  Its a constant learning experience. Even for me at age 62.  We also teach an evening course in MasterCam  Cad/Cam programming plus our district is teaching middle schoolers MasterCam to machine wooden Co2 Dragsters after they design in Solidworks. They machine them in Techno CNC routers.  Its not just a 3d printing world.

So here I am….. I ask our local shops and advisory is there any direction I need to change in what we teach?  No way. They are very happy and now I get too many calls for a good machinist.  I hope we can turn the tide with parents and counselors to show them that working in the trades is very rewarding.

 

In my home town of Burlington Mass I went to school with Roger Cook. You may see him on a TV show called “This Old House”.  In my old town everyone knows that the trades make a good living so the vocational schools have a waiting list.  I just wish everywhere in the US it was the same.

We host an annual event called National MFG Day in October. We use a great program from a story teller Jeremy Bout from EDU Factor during the event. He tells and shows great stories of just people like us – people who make things. This is one way of getting the right people.  Titan Gilroy – He has a great TV show on MAV TV called Titans of CNC. he is always out there telling his story of success and helping others through inspiration and lessons on CNC.

I also belong to a great group – HTEC. Haas Technical Education Centers. The only group totally dedicated to machining education. I have been to 3 national conferences and our school hosted the first State of Florida HTEC conference. We get to meet other instructors and discuss different methods of teaching and help each other. Bob Skodinsky nominated me for the HTEC Council to represent one year schools.

 

I have learned many things some schools are high school, some are 2 yr community college, some are built into 4 yr universities and be connected to engineering degrees.  And we have schools like us who teach in one year. To retrain workers or take high schoolers who have wandered and need direction. Workforce development is my goal. I have to line up jobs , build relationships, internships and more.  I hope at some point we get a high school graduate who comes here right after graduation on a mission.

So in July you will see me in Dallas, TX at my 4th HTEC conference. Meet new people and see some friends. My life has been a journey I didn’t plan life like this but not too bad. In 1972 I could have never imagined.
Yeah that’s me on the dragbike.

 

 

 

 

 

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Our YouTube Channel – CNC Education

We have a YOUTUBE channel with some of our own videos plus a collection of many videos related to CNC and traditional machining education.  Enjoy !!

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STC Precision CNC Machining – VIP guests of Haas CNC Nascar at Daytona 500- #41 Kurt Busch

What a weekend for Suncoast Technical CNC !!!
VIP Guests at the Daytona 500

We had quite a weekend !! Haas CNC Racing team offered our class 4 tickets to the Daytona 500. The education wing of Haas Automation HTEC (non profit) contacted us about this great offer. Suncoast Technical College had hosted the first State of Florida HTEC educators conference for CNC machining education. In appreciation of that we were given free tickets to the BIG race. Not just any old tickets.

They were Pit Pass Gold Access VIP tickets.

 

We were met by Martha and Charlotte from Haas racing team and brought to the back of #41 Kurt Busch trailer. We would be with that team all day.  We got to tour the garages, tech inspection and then we went as a group to the drivers meeting. In attendance was Mario Andretti, Keanu Reaves, Owen Wilson and many other guests.

Then we had lunch with the Haas racing crew of the 4 race cars –

Kurt Busch – Danica Patrick – Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.

Next up was a visit to the starting line where all the qualified cars were lined up in order along with the new Series sponsor – Monster Energy and the Monster Energy Gals. We all got various photos including one with Kurt Busch and his #41 Haas race car.

After that we were wisked away to the #41 Kurt Busch Pit crew station and the Pit cart where we would be all day.

What a day , with lug nuts flying , gas cans, and cars flying by and the occasional crash.

Getting near the end – we realized how well our team was doing. I was up behind crew chief Gibson when I could see Kurt pushing for the lead in the last lap. Everyone was hooting and hollering.  KURT WINS !! – Now we all run to the winners circle where we where included with the Stewart – Haas racing team. What a day. We all had a great time.

 

Can’t say enough about the VIP treatment from Haas racing especially Martha and Charlotte. They even sent the whole class die cast Kurt Busch cars as a remembrance of a great day.  Something we will always remember.

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STC Sweeps Skills USA region 6 CNC Mill

 

 

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The winners

Skills Florida Region 6 Competition at Manatee Tech  Bradenton, Florida

Cody Winegard  – Matt Olsen – Arek Mylnarski

Suncoast Technical College – Precision and CNC Machining program swept the region 6 Skills Florida CNC Milling competition for the second year in a row.  We pride our selves on current modern training especially in the CNC machining arena.  We are past the halfway point with our Class of 2017 – our 4th class since a retooling of the machining program. Our goal to produce 100 machinist in 5 years – we are on track.

The older Haas VF-E is now at Manatee Tech in Bradenton where the competition was held and is still running. It used to be a machine at the old SCTI facility in 2005.  I also saw my old mentor from Manatee Tech – Dave Grenier who was a judge for Skills. Dave is now retired but I had worked at MTC in 2007 as a part time instructor under Dave. So I blame Dave for getting me started in teaching. We all had a laugh.

Back at Suncoast Tech we are hard at work pumping out projects and learning new skills

Well now we are getting ready for State Skills and Job Internships

 

 

 

 

 

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Gene Haas Foundation Donation

Gene Haas Foundation Scholarship Donation

For

Precision and CNC Machining Program  Suncoast Technical College – Florida

 

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We were very happy to receive help from the Gene Haas Foundation so that we can continue our work training machinists for the Modern CNC Machining World. This will be put towards any deserving apprentice who may need financial help to attend our award winning program. I was very happy to get a photo with Dave Thomas from Haas factory Outlet- HFO Tampa as he gave me the info on the need for an instructor at what was Sarasota County Technical Institute in July 2013.

We are now in year 4 and after this year we will have produced 88 machinists with training in Day class and advanced Fast Track CNC Evening school. This year we have just started a MasterCam University Certification course. This will be a stand alone night course but it is also available to our day students who train with us for a year. STC has produced 23% of all the NIMS credentials for the State of Florida.  Furthermore STC hosted the first HTEC CNC machining educators conference in 2016.

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We are very pleased to have chosen the best equipment and educational support from Haas Automation and we will continue to help the needs of Florida with more trained and skilled CNC Machinists.  We have many industries like aerospace, Defense, Medical implant and surgical tooling, Mold making and even Disney world has CNC machining.

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STC Visits Lockheed Martin – Orlando

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The Suncoast Technical College Class of 2017 – Precision and CNC Machining took a tour of the very large Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Manufacturing Center on Sand Lake Rd in Orlando. The plant was originally built in 1957 and has over 4000 employees working today. Lockheed Martin is one of the largest US defense contractors with over 100,000 employees. They have a commitment to excellence as many of our apprentice machinists witnessed today.

This facility has built many defense systems dating back to the Pershing missile to todays Hell Fire missile system. The other systems this facility is know for is Fire Control. That’s means targeting and hitting that target with pin point accuracy in all systems – whether it is the shoulder held Javelin to PAC-3 (Patriot) missile defense system. They work in the tightest tolerances in temperature controlled rooms with the absolute most accurate tooling and CNC equipment. This makes the difference between hitting or missing a target by 1 feet at 5 miles with a Hellfire. The Pac-3 is known as a defense device that is used like shooting a bullet and hitting the other bullet shot at us.  They also make the EOTS targeting system for the new F-35 JSF Fighter  plus many other systems.

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         We were welcomed by the manufacturing operations staff and they asked each student who they were and what their career path may be. We also have 3 Veterans as students and they were honored for service. The staff gave us a video presentation of the work they do. How they not only do machining with 5 axis CNC machines but Flexible manufacturing cells with Mazak CNC Machines with 100 pallets and jobs that can be called up as needed.

        They have an ultra precision room in which the temperature and even the coolants are kept 68 deg. (20c) Plus or minus 1 deg.  This is to ensure accuracy with Mitsui Seiki CNC Machines to less than .000050 – all day long.  And they are expanding that room and bringing in more equipment, because they have more programs coming on line and will need more mechanical assemblers and machinists.  They will also need more metrology quality control personnel that can operate Zeiss CMM measuring machines

Mitsui Seiki 5 Axis CNC Milling center   – Zeiss CMM measuring system

       Like many companies in the US there is a skills gap in many fields. As Lockheed Martin (LMCO)  has retirements coming and more business coming on line they will need more trained personnel.

The HR staff talked about how they will be seeking more personnel and are welcoming Entry level trained machinist – especially from accredited Vocational Technical schools. The benefit packages are very good plus the pay rate is competitive with good raises. All represented by UAW Local 788 union. A great place to work plus they will pay for your engineering degree if you want to eventually move in another path. You can even transfer to another facility if you desire.

     We also got to see the Fire control Factory where these targeting devices are assembled and tested. Very organized and clean

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Finally we ended the tour in the optics machining department. This is where lens are machined and CNC polished to crazy tolerances. They even produce the sapphire crystal glass panels that protect the targeting systems from debris on a fighter jet at Mach 2 and it must be perfectly clear or it will deflect the targeting image.

 

That’s why our skilled tradesmen of today can work with greatest engineers and design teams to come up with US national defense systems that will protect our warfighters and protect us. They need to work the first time and every time.  No second chance. So the motto at LMCO is “We never forget who we work for”.   I am a former employee of this great facility and saw many old friends and great machinists on this tour. I was involved in a running (2) large $950,000 Mazak Intergrex 1060 5 axis CNC Mill-Turn centers in the Sniper ATP Department.  I teach what I learned over my 30 years of modern machining and that includes the 10 years I have worked at (2) Lockheed Martin Facilities.

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MasterCam – Meghan West visit

The MasterCam educational team

visits Suncoast Technical College , Sarasota, Fla.

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Meghan Summers West , president of MasterCam and Dan Newby , head of MasterCam education toured the STC Precision & CNC Machining program today. They are in town to speak at the USF Stem educators conference and wanted to see a local modern CNC machining education program in action.

Stephanie Holmquist, from HEC and USF alum, organized the conference and visit to STC.

 

We showed them how we teach to be a machinist in the modern machining world.

How STC is using MasterCam Cad/Cam software in our program.

Also how Sarasota County Schools CTE department are incorporating  MasterCam training into middle and high schools using CNC Routers along with 3d printing. Students will learn both subtractive and additive manufacturing

 

Suncoast Technical College is entering its 4th year of Precision Machining education.  A Career in (under) a year we like to say.

STC has produced 25% of the NIMS credential certifications for the whole state of Florida.

STC is also starting its 3rd year of FastTrack Advanced CNC evening school in Jan 2017 and a new 2017 MasterCam certification evening class in Feb 2017.

 

Thanks to Meghan and Dan for stopping by to see what we do. They all seemed to enjoy the visit and gave us high marks on our progress.

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Made in Florida – MFG day at STC

Oct 7th , 2016 was a great day at Suncoast Technical College in Sarasota, Florida. We were able to host over 200 Sarasota County Career and Technical Education students – CTE – and show them about our school and also about manufacturing.  These students were very engaged especially in our award winning Precision & CNC Machining Automation Lab.

We had three separate groups of high school and middle school students from various schools. It was organized by Martha Proulx and Ron DiPillo from the Sarasota County CTE department. They had buses going here and there, picking up at schools, tour a manufacturing facility and tour Suncoast Technical College.  The students were prepped before hand by using the Made in Florida training module from Florida Advanced Technical Education Center – FL ATE in Tampa. They toured companies like ASO Corporation – Medical bandages , Black Diamond Guitar Strings and KHS America – High Speed Packaging – all in Sarasota.


When they arrived at STC we had an Edufactor conference first. We showed stories on people who are makers and stories like the Chilean miner rescue and What will you Discover.  The exciting people like Titan Gilroy , host of the show Titan – American Built, talking about becoming a machinist.  And wrapping up with Jeremy Bout – Edge Factor story about a young woman’s journey becoming a manufacturing engineer.

Then we had all students tour our STC Drafting and Design department where we teach Solidworks and Autocad. Drafting also has 3D printing and a Davinci CNC Router to make projects that are designed.  The DaVinci is equipped to do great projects from Cuda Country like the balsa wood CO2 dragster car.

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Then we are in the CNC Machining Department where all Haas CNC machinery and the adult students were able to show projects and give way many pieces as MFG Day mementos. We even had some students setup and run a CNC Lathe to make a Chess Pawn.


So there you have it, trying to show students other avenues that you can take in life.  Good careers need good training and you may even like what you do. Making things that people use.

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STC annual Field Trip season begins 2016

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Suncoast Technical College Precision and CNC Machining Program is deep into year 4 and now hits the road to visit local manufacturers.  We visited 3 shops this year, Weber Mfg., FI-DE Machine and Atlantic Mold , all in the Venice, Florida area.

At Weber MFG , near PGT, we visited and saw one of our graduates Rob Hill working and enjoying his new job. Then we moved down the street to FI-DE machine and visited Karl and crew and his large Haas CNC Mills and lathes. FI-DE specializes in larger work.  Karl has hosted an intern graduate Mark in his shop with help from Career Edge that supported the Internship funding

Last on the tour was a huge supporter, Atlantic Mold and Machining.  They are on our advisory committee and have also hired 2 graduates and have hosted 5 interns through the Career Edge intern funding program.  Atlantic is well know for producing high level plastic injection molds for medical industry and the Tervis tumbler.

So here we go again – 18 adult students who will complete in June, many will be working as paid interns by March.  STC has a nationally recognized machining program that has earned the most Florida NIMS certifications in the last 2 years.  Over 200 certs.

We also will be restarting our Fastrack CNC Machining evening program and a new  MasterCam Cad/Cam Programming certificate program in Jan 2017.

This is a 1992 model Haas CNC mill – one of the early ones but still running at Weber Mfg.

 

 

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National MFG Day Oct 7th at STC

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National MFG is coming up on October 7th here in Sarasota, Florida at Suncoast Technical College. It is a celebration and awareness campaign to promote what makes America great.  Manufacturing makes it great. Nationwide we have a great need to train people for skilled trades as business has been good and many workers are retiring. So there are many opportunities for good jobs in what used to be considered a strong area in the US.

Check out what Titan has to say about the Future


For many years we have not been encouraging our young people to look at all careers. The mantra of 4 year college education being the only avenue for career direction has taken a turn. It has created a gap in supplying skilled workers in many areas of manufacturing.  Incorrectly we have assumed that all work has been shipped overseas.  Many companies like titanium hip implant companies are very busy. The defense and aerospace at always busy and all that works needs to be done in the USA. At my school I cannot fill all the local jobs to supply even local manufacturing. If we do not fill these positions we risk companies going out of business and losing manufacturing to overseas again.

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Woman in Manufacturing

The good news is that we are ready and able to train people. We have many companies that have a need and are willing participants in encouraging young people of even workers who are looking for a career shift. To actually make something tangible that is needed can be very rewarding.

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Manufacturing in Naples

 

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Titanium Medical Implants

 
Imagine attending school for one year, get a paid internship before school end and be earning good money in the same time as entering your sophomore year at college. If you have a chance some companies will PAY for your college if you decide to go on to engineering later.  Or you can carve out a great career that is always changing. That means you can probably even get a job anywhere – high demand.

Jeremey Bout from the EDGE Factor on American ingenuity.

So lets here in for MFG Day !! Be part of what makes America great.  Suncoast Technical College will be hosting 200 Sarasota County High school and Middle school CTE students for a “Rock MFG Day” Event on Oct 7th.  Then they will be going on factory tours sponsored by Sarasota and Manatee County Manufacturing Association – SAMA.

They will see great Video stories on manufacturing from Edge Factor as well as tours of the award winning STC Precision and CNC Machining Lab.  Machining graduates of STC have earned the most national NIMS certifications in the state of Florida.

What will YOU discover?

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