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Funding Inspires Florida Teens to Pursue STEM Manufacturing Education

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The SME Education Foundation builds on its manufacturing education STEM initiative with funding to the Science and Technology Education Innovation Center for its Manufacturing Laboratory and afterschool STEM Clubs.

DEARBORN, Mich., ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., January 23, 2013 — Developing hands-on skills for jobs in advanced manufacturing equates to providing middle and high school students with access to hands-on, real-world equipment in the classroom and inspiring them to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. The SME Education Foundation (SME-EF) continues its support of the Science and Technology Education Innovation Center, (formerly the Science Center of Pinellas County), matching last year’s $25,000 gift, for the purchase of equipment for the Manufacturing Laboratory, and $6,000 for their afterschool STEM Clubs.

The funding underscores the SME Education Foundation’s mission to inspire, prepare, and support the next generation of engineers and technologists. Bart A. Aslin, CEO, SME Education Foundation says, “We are taking a community-based approach to manufacturing education. We believe it’s critical that our collaborations continue to establish and reinforce a STEM mindset, change public perception of manufacturing as a career, and inspire young people to know more about their potential for jobs in advanced manufacturing.”

The Manufacturing Laboratory will gain a new milling machine which will be operational by late spring allowing middle and high school students to pursue their MSSC (Manufacturing Skills Standards Council) Production Technician Certification. The goal is to provide a link to industry for providing apprenticeships and internships to students as they undergo certification training. Once the credential is received, the student will continue their education and work training in a true partnership with manufacturers.

Facing a continuing shortage of skilled workers, manufacturers have a vested interest in joining with high schools, trade schools, community colleges and universities to develop programs that provide specific skill sets. According to a study by McKinsey & Co., employers have a role to play in ensuring employee preparedness. About a third of employers say they are getting the workers they need, in part because they are engaged in the training process, communicating directly with schools and students to develop course work, and advising institutions of the required skills for new hires. In the Tampa Bay area, manufacturers want to hire and are proactively working with the Center in a variety of ways.

Industry partner, Andy Malcom, president, Advanced Protection Technologies (APT), Clearwater, Fla., says, “The lack of skilled workers is the single most important issue facing manufacturers today. These jobs pay a higher than average wage and provide numerous pathways for growth and advancement within an organization. It’s very rewarding to see the change in attitude when you show them that today’s manufacturing facilities are clean, high-tech environments with a wide variety of positions. These kids are the future of our industry and I believe every manufacturer should take an active role in developing a pipeline of future highly skilled employees.”

Important support from local partners includes: R.S Hughes, providing ESD mats, hand-tools for electronics assembly (pliers, tweezers, lead formers) and various consumables for electronics for soldering and assembly (solder, gloves, acid brushes and orange sticks); APT has donated soldering stations and provides engineers to mentor students; a staff person at GE Aviation serves on the Board at the Center and mentors students, and EEI Manufacturing has provided a variety of resources when needed.

The Foundation has also provided $6,000 to be directed to STEM Clubs, the Center’s afterschool program which draws 90 students – 6 total groups from three local middle schools: Azalea Middle School, Bay Point Middle School, and Tyrone Middle School. STEM Clubs are fun, inquiry-based educational experiences where students can explore design and construction projects and then choose from either Lego Robotics or Bridge Building. The STEM Club provides students with a new perspective. Jalyn, a student at Tyrone Middle School says, "I come to [the] STEM Club because it's good for my future, for college, and career. I'm trying to set a good example for my younger sister."

“We are proud to have a partnership with SME-EF, “says Joseph Cuenco, executive director, Science and Technology Education Innovation Center. “Our middle and high school students will be able to develop their individual skills and talents for successful engineering careers so important to this community. We are excited to help build industry capacity for the future needs of our manufacturers and help attract new industry to Tampa Bay.”

About Science and Technology Education Innovation Center:
The Center, formerly the Science Center of Pinellas County Florida and renamed in 2013, is a K-12 student educational institution with programs focused on STEM. The Center’s seven-acre facility houses experiential facilities consisting of an observatory, a planetarium, marine touch tank, weather station, wetlands, and various labs for cyber security, forensics, chemistry, robotics, energy, petrology, and computers. The present Cyber Security certification program is one of the many programs that support the Center’s focus on career skills development for students. The Center is not supported by taxpayers and depends upon public, corporate, foundations, and certification programs for financial support. Visit www.steic.org.

Industry / Community Partners:
AMETEK, Inc., APT (Advanced Protection Technologies; BAMA (Bay Area Manufacturers Association); Bay News 9/ Brighthouse Networks; City of St. Petersburg; Coordinated Child Care/Juvenile Welfare Board; Eclipse, Kinder Morgan Foundation; FL Manufacturing Extension Partnership (FLMEP); National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); Pinellas Community Foundation; Progress Energy; Publix; R & R Associates; Raytheon; Raymond James; RS Hughes; Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Education Foundation (SMEEF); St. Petersburg College; Tech Data, and the University of South Florida.

About the SME Education Foundation:
The SME Education Foundation is committed to inspiring, preparing and supporting the next generation of manufacturing engineers and technologists for the advancement of manufacturing education. Created by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers in 1979, the SME Education Foundation has provided more than $33 million since 1980 in grants, scholarships and awards through its partnerships with corporations, organizations, foundations, and individual donors. Visit www.smeef.org. Also visit www.CareerMe.org for information on advanced manufacturing careers and www.ManufacturingisCool.com, our award-winning Web site for young people.

Note to Media:
Join us at https://twitter.com/mfgeducation to stay up-to-date on SME Education Foundation developments.

Media Contact:
Bart A. Aslin, CEO, SME Education Foundation, 313.425.3300, baslin@sme.org; Joseph Cuenco, Executive Director, Science and Technology Education Innovation Center, 727.384.0027, jcuenco@steic.org

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If you have questions about the press release or need additional information, please contact SME Public Relations at communications@sme.org.