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Press Release

SME Announces Partnership with BlueForge Alliance to Build and Strengthen the Manufacturing Workforce

(SOUTHFIELD, Mich., May 21, 2024) -- As the U.S. Navy continues to increase investment and commitment to building the resiliency of our nation’s shipbuilding industrial base and supply chain, two non-profit organizations have joined forces to attract and train more individuals to fill critical gaps in the manufacturing workforce and bolster our nation’s defense capabilities. This new partnership will support the Navy Submarine Industrial Base Program’s efforts to recruit, train, and hire more than 140,000 skilled workers in the next decade to meet the Navy’s demand for building new submarines and sustaining the current fleet.

SME, a national non-profit that accelerates manufacturing technology adoption and builds North America’s manufacturing talent and capabilities today announced a partnership with BlueForge Alliance (BFA), a national non-profit integrator established to reinvigorate the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base. This partnership will assist in filling the critical gaps in the defense manufacturing workforce and help bolster our nation’s defense capabilities.

“Our nation’s industrial workforce, in terms of size, capabilities, and talent is in dire need of a collaborative and national strategy to fill its pipeline and solve the growing skills gap,” said Jeannine Kunz, SME’s Chief Workforce Development Officer. “SME is leveraging its strengths and approach of ‘thinking nationally and acting locally’ to aggressively increase the supply of talent to meet industry demands. By joining forces with BlueForge Alliance and its talent efforts across the country, we can collectively grow, optimize, and scale workforce initiatives, driving impact on a national and regional level.”

The new collaboration between BFA and SME will:

  • Provide defense industrial base employers with training, certification, and support to upskill their current workforce.
  • Increase awareness of industry career pathways and exponentially grow the supply of ready-to-hire talent for manufacturing jobs through the SME Manufacturing Imperative - Workforce Pipeline Challenge (MI-WPC).
  • Inspire and prepare the next generation of manufacturing talent through the SME Education Foundation’s SME PRIME® (Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education) program.

“The partnership with BlueForge Alliance is an excellent example of aligning missions, resources, intent and action”, said Kunz. “For example, the recent launch of SME’s Manufacturing Imperative – Workforce Pipeline Challenge started with SME and 25 community and technical colleges and technical schools across 17 states coming together to solve their communities and the nation’s talent challenges with a goal to attract 75,000 or more qualified workers in pursuit of manufacturing careers over the next 3 years. Now with support from BlueForge Alliance, we can strengthen, grow, and accelerate this collaborative program.”

The MI-WPC has already gained national attention from the White House, the Department of Education, State Manufacturing Associations, and the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC) for its innovative and collaborative approach to optimize education and industry partnerships and accelerate the education and skill development needed to place individuals in family-sustaining industrial base jobs. Realizing the urgency and need for collaboration, these schools have leaned-in to share best practices and ideate on new pathways, policies, and processes to prepare learners for open positions, while gaining the engagement and support of their local industry partners. Findings will help other programs replicate and scale innovative solutions to grow local economies, reduce barriers to employment, and fill vacant manufacturing jobs. 

“I am inspired by the passion, resolve, and investment by these colleges in stepping up, and with BlueForge Alliance also joining and supporting the MI-WPC, we are poised to do more, faster and better together for local and national impact”, said Kunz. “This type of collaboration is required if we are going to win the war on talent.”

Recognizing the Need to Make Impact Earlier in the Pipeline Stream

With missions equally aligned to implementing not just immediate, but also long-term solutions to sustaining the workforce of the industrial base, SME and BlueForge have also recognized a need to advance career and technical education in high schools across the nation. The collaboration will provide funding to support new SME PRIME schools in key defense industrial base locations. SME PRIME partners private industry with academia to build comprehensive and custom manufacturing and engineering programs in high schools across the country — providing equipment, curriculum, teacher training and student scholarships along with funding for manufacturing-related extracurricular activities and program sustainability.

The new SME PRIME locations will increase awareness, aptitude and skills in technologies such as additive manufacturing, welding, robotics, metrology, and CNC machining that support advanced manufacturing and submarine shipbuilding. 

“SME PRIME is currently implemented in 110 schools across 23 states, serving more than 10,000 students annually,” said Kunz. “With over 90% of SME PRIME seniors pursuing manufacturing post high school—either through a manufacturing-related degree or by directly entering the workforce, we can further build the talent supply for manufacturing and focus the educational systems on the advanced technical skills needed to support today’s military and defense industrial needs.”

“This collaboration with BlueForge marks merely the initial phase in a broader vision and long-term partnership aimed at advancing the objectives of both our organizations and the U.S. Navy/Department of Defense,” said Kunz. “Together, we are not just filling jobs; we are deploying a scalable and systematic approach to advancing careers, enhancing lives through family sustaining wages, and driving national economic growth tailored to local requirements.”

About SME

Established in 1932 as a nonprofit organization, SME represents the entire North American manufacturing industry, including manufacturers, academia, professionals, students, and the communities in which they operate. We believe manufacturing holds the key to economic growth and prosperity, and champion the industry's potential as a diverse, thriving, and valued ecosystem. SME accelerates new technology adoption and builds North America’s talent and capabilities to advance manufacturing and drive competitiveness, resiliency, and national security. SME designs new ways to understand and solve problems, and our solutions advance the next wave of growth in manufacturing. Learn more at

About BlueForge Alliance

BlueForge Alliance is a nonprofit, neutral integrator that supports the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base initiatives and efforts to strengthen and sustain the maritime manufacturing sector. BFA is a critical partner in the SIB’s mission to ensure industry has the capability, capacity, and resilience to build and maintain America’s next generation of undersea platforms. The organization’s team of experts in a variety of disciplines focus on addressing critical workforce, technology, and supplier development needs. BFA is headquartered in Bryan/College Station, Texas. For more information, visit