SME Announces New Initiative in Partnership with Community and Technical Colleges to Address the Manufacturing Industry’s Workforce Shortage and Skills Gap Crisis August 30, 2023 by SME Communications SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Aug. 30, 2023 - SME, the national nonprofit committed to accelerating new manufacturing technology adoption and building North America’s manufacturing talent and capabilities, announced a new initiative today involving a partnership with community and technical colleges to address the urgency of revitalizing manufacturing’s industrial base, growing the industry’s talent pipeline, and enhancing the skills and productivity of manufacturing workers. The Manufacturing Imperative – Workforce Pipeline Challenge (MI-WPC) launches this fall and 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. The initiative builds awareness of careers in manufacturing, optimizes workforce systems and accelerates the education and skill development needed to place individuals in jobs making family-sustaining wages. “I am pleased to celebrate SME’s newest initiative, the Manufacturing Imperative – Workforce Pipeline Challenge to help address the national workforce crisis facing our manufacturing sector,” said U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary Amy Loyd. “We appreciate SME’s leadership and willingness to bring together the national voice of manufacturers alongside our nation’s community and technical colleges to address local and regional labor market needs and support efforts to invest in America and prepare youth and adults for good jobs.” Through the Workforce Pipeline Challenge, SME will work with schools to conduct a labor analysis of the local, regional, and state landscape; develop and expand sector strategies to attract new populations – particularly those under-served and under-represented in the workforce; and implement new programs, curriculum and applicable certifications to develop skilled individuals that are ready to hire for the vast array of growing, unfilled positions in manufacturing. Jeannine Kunz, Chief Workforce Development Officer, SME Jeannine Kunz, SME’s chief workforce development officer, explained the key motivation behind launching the initiative: “SME, along with many other industry organizations, understands that manufacturing is a critical engine of America’s economic strength and national security, playing a role in almost every sector of our economy. It is our responsibility to support the development of a diverse and qualified talent pool by stepping up our efforts and investments to strengthen the manufacturing supply chain with technically skilled individuals. Only then can we ensure our industrial base remains resilient now and into the future.” The Workforce Pipeline Challenge is a three-year pilot program with a goal to attract 1,000 individuals at each of the initial 25 participating community and technical colleges annually, resulting in 75,000 or more qualified workers in pursuit of manufacturing careers. The estimated economic impact of growing the industry’s workforce in this way is $6 billion. Best practices identified throughout the program will be shared nationally to help other programs implement innovative solutions to grow local economies, reduce barriers to employment, and fill vacant manufacturing jobs. The partnership between SME and the initial institutions will leverage a strong alliance with the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC). Craig McAtee, NCATC’s executive director shares that “any advanced manufacturing, workforce development initiative led by SME is top-notch and impactful for education, students, and employers across America – NCATC is inspired to be a partner on the SME Manufacturing Imperative – Workforce Pipeline Challenge.” “It is our pleasure to work with educational partners, specifically our community and technical colleges who are the workforce engines of our communities. Currently these institutions enroll more than 40% of all undergraduate students in higher education, as well as engage hundreds of thousands of adult learners in non-traditional programs,” stated Dr. Debra Volzer, government and workforce partnerships director for SME, who is leading this initiative. “We are excited and humbled that these institutions have accepted the challenge to work together in addressing the industry’s imperative. We will leverage the ideas and welcome the support from this dedicated cohort and others in our collective manufacturing community as we set out to solve our nation’s workforce crisis.” Just a few of the institutions selected to participate in the challenge include Wallace State and Calhoun Community Colleges (AL), Daley College from the City Colleges of Chicago (IL), WSU Tech (KS), Grand Rapids and Schoolcraft Community Colleges (MI), Wake Tech Community College (NC), Columbus State and Lorain Community Colleges (OH), Tulsa Community College (OK), Greenville Technical College (SC), Pellissippi State Community College (TN), Lone Star Community College (TX) and Patrick & Henry Community College (VA). These colleges have committed to a specific set of requirements, demonstrating commitment to this national approach to pipeline development and to implementing innovative solutions to address long-standing industry challenges. Their collective voices will also inform legislation, policy and funding. Based on the program’s collective success, SME looks forward to expanding this initiative beyond the initial 25 pilot institutions as there are many outstanding programs throughout the United States making a difference every day. Dr. Sheree Utash, president of WSU Tech’s National Center for Aviation and upcoming chair of the MI-WPC President’s Council expressed her excitement around this program. “WSU Tech is proud to support the Manufacturing Imperative-Workforce Pipeline Challenge in partnership with SME,” she said. “Creating an educated workforce to meet the needs of our manufacturing industries across the nation is a challenging issue and critical to our national security. We are proud to continue to engage in this work of building a qualified talent pipeline with others across the nation in this crucial initiative.” Dr. Vicki P. Karolewics, president of Wallace State Community College added, “there is not a more critical time to be actively involved in igniting the manufacturing workforce pipeline. Wallace State is actively engaged with SME and NCATC to redesign and expand programs and career pathways to develop, upskill, and retool the manufacturing pipeline of tomorrow. Industry 4.0 is creating rapid change in manufacturing environments, and community colleges are on the leading edge of developing the workforce of the future.” “We are honored to partner with these forward-thinking educational institutions to address the multifaceted manufacturing challenges at the local, regional, and state levels,” said Dr. Timothy Wilson, SME’s research lead for the program. “Through this strategic collaboration, we aim to integrate SME's national insights with the invaluable local and regional expertise of the colleges and their community-based allies. Our goal is not just to enhance the workforce and its system, but to truly understand and uplift the unique strengths of each institution. By identifying, refining, and disseminating best practices, we hope to address a pressing national imperative: to cultivate and sustain a resilient manufacturing workforce.” For more information on the Workforce Pipeline Challenge, or to learn more about opportunities to engage with and support the program, visit https://train.toolingu.com/MI-WPCPR.