Premium Associate Member Spotlight: SME Education Foundation

This article appeared in the September 2021 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

Filling the talent pipeline has always been a major concern for employers. The problem has never been greater than today, and manufacturing has been especially hard hit.

For manufacturing employers, misperceptions about work environment and opportunities for advancement are common among young people. Many manufacturers have made it a top priority to face this challenge head-on, developing plans to offer apprenticeships, internships and other programs to help ensure they will continue to have a productive and innovative workforce.

The SME Education Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, is dedicated to helping ease the talent shortage for manufacturers. Founded over 40 years ago, the Foundation has provided more than $33 million in grants, scholarships and awards and has supported manufacturing-focused student outreach and education programs through its partnerships with corporations, other foundations, organizations and individual donors.

What is the best part about your job?

The social impact. I’ve always been attracted to work that benefits society in some way, shape or form.

The Foundation’s Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education (PRIME®) is a national initiative that is currently in 63 schools across 22 states. SME Education Foundation’s PRIME currently provides 17 Michigan high schools with a curriculum tailored to give students hands-on training on modern, industry-standard equipment and allows them to explore futures in manufacturing, engineering and STEM-related careers. MMA is a core partner with the SME PRIME initiative in the state of Michigan, to support the state’s talent pipeline through curriculum, programming, events and more.

PRIME combines professional development for teachers with curriculum development and an understanding of local manufacturing needs to help students understand why math and other skills they learn in high school are applicable to opportunities for their future. It’s committed to introducing students to additive manufacturing and CNC machining and inspiring them to explore rewarding careers they may not be aware of otherwise.

Thanks to an MMA-led effort to secure a $6 million appropriation to the School Aid Fund Budget, the state will see double the number of schools participating in the unique manufacturer/educator partnership-driven PRIME initiative. And that is great news in the talent pipeline challenge for manufacturers.

What is one skill everyone should have?

I don’t know if it’s a skill as much as it is a personality trait but everyone should have grit.

“The $6 million award was strongly advocated for by the MMA, which carried a lot of weight with the Legislature,” says Robert Luce, SME Education Foundation Vice President. “Our SME Education Foundation PRIME schools have been a model; a unique approach to STEM education and career preparation implemented by scores of schools across the nation.”

An example of PRIME in action is the grant provided to Pontiac High School in March. The grant allowed the school to create new manufacturing career pathways for students and purchase state-of-the-art equipment.

The Pontiac High School PRIME programs span four years, from ninth through 12th grades. Each program features a tiered rollout of information and technology, so as students progress from year to year they get exposed to more and more tools.

Since MMA began its partnership with SME Education Foundation, there have been 17 PRIME schools added to the Michigan program as more and more students are being exposed to skilled trades and manufacturing technology. Both MMA and SME are excited to watch that number grow in the coming years and to play a pivotal role in supporting the talent pipeline for the industry.

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Learn how your community can build a local talent pipeline with PRIME.