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Building the Workforce Pipeline

By SME Media Staff

SME Leaders recently met with the presidents from each of the educational institutions participating in the Manufacturing Imperative – Workforce Pipeline Challenge (MI-WPC) to discuss the strengths and challenges in filling the industry’s workforce shortage and skills gap crisis.

Announced last fall, the MI-WPC is a three-year pilot program with a goal of attracting 1,000 individuals at each of the initial participating community and technical colleges annually, resulting in 75,000 or more qualified workers in pursuit of manufacturing careers. The economic impact of growing the industry’s workforce is estimated at $6 billion. 

The program combines the industry and workforce expertise of SME with the educational programs and innovations of a select group of U.S. community and technical colleges. “Through this collaboration, the initiative is building awareness of careers in manufacturing, optimizing workforce systems, and accelerating the education and skill development needed to place individuals in jobs making family-sustaining wages,” says Jeannine Kunz, SME’s chief workforce development officer. “Since our launch, we have onboarded two colleges, with 14 more scheduled over the next several months, and the remaining colleges to be scheduled by April.”

The inaugural president’s advisory meeting in January allowed MI-WPC to establish a unified vision and identify key topics for future discussions. A key goal is to support the prosperity of local, regional and state manufacturing communities.

Monthly “Champion” meetings lay the groundwork for the initiative. Best practices such as how to attract students in STEM-related programs, develop and deploy curriculum aligned to the needs of local industry, change the narrative around manufacturing and deploy strategies to build stronger relationships with school districts will be shared nationally. This is designed to help other programs implement innovative solutions to grow local economies, reduce barriers to employment and fill vacant manufacturing jobs.

“At the core of how we, as state manufacturing associations, can have the largest impact for the industry we serve is by helping to solve the manufacturing industry’s ‘skilled’ workforce gap,” attests Michael Eaton, executive director of Missouri’s Association of Manufacturers and chair of SME’s Manufacturing Advisory Council that convened Jan. 17.

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Bob Willig

SME CEO Retiring at Year-End

In January, Bob Willig announced that he will retire from his position as SME executive director and CEO in December.

“We are incredibly grateful to Bob for his vision, leadership and dedication,” says 2024 SME President Winston Erevelles, PhD. “Since he started with the organization as CEO in January 2021, Bob has overseen great changes and guided us through an industry evolving due to the pandemic and other global market influences.

“Bob has provided a robust plan to ensure the long-term success of SME,” Erevelles continues. “Under his leadership, SME’s position as a respected leader and industry voice with a 90-plus-year legacy of demonstrated impact across the industry has never been stronger. Together, we have built a strong foundation for growth and are confident that SME will continue to play an important role in the advancement of the industry and the nation.”

Willig will continue to lead SME while a comprehensive search for his successor is conducted.

It’s Time to Pitch Nominees for AM Awards

Nominations are now open for four additive manufacturing (AM) awards and SME’s AM Pitchfest scheduled for RAPID + TCT 2024, North America’s largest and most influential AM event, which will be held June 25-27 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The award application deadline is April 5.

The awards include:

AM Industry Achievement Award – Established in 2008, the award recognizes an individual or team for outstanding accomplishments that significantly impact the application of AM in any industry. It recognizes achievements implemented or deployed in a commercial/industrial environment versus research or investigative work.

Aubin AM Case Study Award – This award recognizes innovations in the application of AM technologies, and outstanding use cases of AM adoption and implementation.

Digital Manufacturing Challenge – Designed to inspire the next generation of engineers, the award has three categories for 2023: high school, undergraduate and graduate teams. The goal is to rethink ways to design, create and utilize systems that deploy engineering design and manufacturing solutions to strengthen infrastructure in the response, mitigation, and/or prevention of disruptive and devastating events.

The AM Startup Technology Award – The award showcases companies that have developed a new AM technology/application that solves an existing problem or has a unique approach.

The AM Pitchfest – The competition is open to entrepreneurs, startups and academic spinoffs bringing emerging technology, products and applications to the market. Finalists will be selected to “pitch” ideas during a five-minute presentation followed by one minute of Q&A.

All of the awards celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of individuals, teams and companies that have had a significant impact on commercializing AM.

Diversifying Through Scholarships

In partnership with IOScholarships, the SME Education Foundation has created an equal opportunity for students to achieve their educational goals and diversify manufacturing.

IOScholarships is a search tool that helps underrepresented students find scholarships in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The mission is to increase the number of students in STEM by offering a free, intuitive, user-friendly scholarship matching experience for diverse undergraduate and graduate students.

“Our partnership with SME will reduce barriers for low-income Hispanics and diverse students pursuing an associate or bachelor’s degree in manufacturing, engineering or related discipline,” notes María Fernanda Trochimezuk, founder of IOScholarships. “Together we will help grow the representation of underserved and underrepresented communities within the STEM workforce, and create economic mobility for the next generation of manufacturing and engineering talent.”

The SME Education Foundation awarded nearly $1 million in scholarships in 2023.”

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