This article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2024 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
MMA’s efforts to advocate on behalf of Michigan’s manufacturers often translate into tangible beneficial results. In this article, we’ll dive into one such effort that is reshaping Michigan’s manufacturing-related career and technical education landscape.
In 2021, the MMA embarked on a partnership with the SME Education Foundation to expand the SME PRIME initiative in Michigan. PRIME — which stands for Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education — establishes cost-effective and tailored manufacturing and engineering programs in high schools.
The PRIME program provides — at no cost to participating schools — state-of-the-art equipment, curriculum, teacher professional development, manufacturing-relevant STEM-focused extracurricular activities and access to college scholarships for student completers. Learning pathways include additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing), CAD/CAM, precision metrology and quality, engineering, mechatronics and robotics, machining and fabrication, welding, industrial maintenance and materials science (a new PRIME pathway focused on electric vehicle fundamentals will soon be added in response to industry demand).
In short, PRIME brings “shop class” back to high schools in a high-tech way.
There are currently over 90 SME PRIME schools in 23 states. Michigan is home to 33 of those schools thanks to MMA’s lobbying efforts to get $6 million of state funding appropriated in the 2021 budget. In 2023, MMA was successful in advocating for an additional $6 million to continue statewide expansion with a goal of having a minimum of 50 SME PRIME schools in Michigan by 2025.
The impact these schools are having and will continue to have on Michigan’s manufacturing-related talent pipeline is incredible.
An SME PRIME Outcomes Report for the 2020-2021 school year found an average of 93 students participating in PRIME at the 22 schools responding to the survey. It’s worth noting that those numbers were compiled before MMA’s expansion efforts and during the depth of the COVID-19 pandemic when enrollment in CTE programs was down nationwide.
Just using these conservative numbers as a benchmark, Michigan’s 50 PRIME schools will provide many thousands of young people with in-demand skills needed by manufacturers located near those schools and around the state. And 91 percent of PRIME seniors enter the manufacturing workforce or pursue a related post-secondary education upon graduation.
But MMA isn’t stopping there. We’ve launched a multi-year, long-term effort to build deep and sustainable employer-led collaboratives in the communities that are home to these PRIME schools. Leveraging a $498,620 Sector Strategies Employer-Led Collaboratives grant from Michigan’s Department of Labor & Economic Opportunity, MMA is committed to work with local and regional partners to launch pilot collaboratives anchored by a minimum of 25 manufacturers and six of the existing 33 PRIME schools between now and September 2025.
Establishment, promotion and expansion of work-based learning opportunities, along with direct pathways to post-secondary education and registered apprenticeship, will be pursued within each collaborative.
And to ensure the highest possible quality of work-based learning opportunities for the students, the pilot phase’s 25 anchor employers will participate in Certifying Operator Training through The Luminous Group at no cost to the companies. This “train-the-trainer meets training process efficiency” program helps employers create, deliver and validate high quality in-house operator training through a strong mentorship model.
We’re starting with a cluster of PRIME schools in what we’re calling the Great Lakes Bay PRIME Region. PRIME schools in that region that will potentially participate include Bay City Western in Auburn, Birch Run High School, Freeland High School, Hemlock High School, Merrill High School, Heritage High School and Swan Valley High School in Saginaw and the Saginaw Career Complex. If you’re a manufacturer located near one or more of these schools and you might be interested in joining this effort, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This pilot round of collaboratives will be the initial phase of forming a statewide Workforce Solutions PRIME Collaborative Network, a learning ecosystem focused on relationship and capacity building across and between the individual collaboratives.
Once the pilot phase has completed, MMA will focus on building out sustainable employer-led collaboratives around each of the state’s remaining PRIME schools. The Workforce Solutions PRIME Collaborative Network will then serve for decades to come as a statewide manufacturing talent development supply chain ecosystem geared to delivering highly trained individuals to our state’s manufacturers.
Executive Director of Workforce Solutions