TROY — Students in Troy High School’s college and career training program will be getting new opportunities thanks to support from the SME — formerly the Society of Manufacturing Engineers — Education Foundation.
The support will come in the form of funding, training and equipment through the Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education — or PRIME — program.
“Manufacturing is a crucial industry for our country, for our country’s well-being and our country’s economy. There’s not an industry that is not starving for talent,” explained Rob Luce, the foundation’s president. “There are 500,000 manufacturing jobs open right now in the country. By the end of the decade, that number could go up to 2.5 million. … We want to dispel the myth that manufacturing is this dark, dirty, dead-end career path. We want to expose kids to the opportunities that manufacturing can provide them.”
He said the SME Education Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the SME, established in 1979.
“It has always been focused on STEM education for students across the country,” Luce said. “Our mission statement is to inspire, prepare and support the next generation of engineers. The PRIME program is our signature program, and the first of our other two programs is our scholarship program, in which we award scholarships of approximately $1 million a year. The third is the Bright Minds program, which is focused on student summits hosted by us in which several hundred students are invited to manufacturing conferences and trade shows. We provide them with a one-day curated tour of the show. It’s designed to expose them to the manufacturing industry.”
Troy College and Career High School Principal Bill Turner said their entry into the PRIME program will mean new pathways for students to get in-school training for future careers.
“We will be getting industry equipment that we wouldn’t be able to afford,” said Turner. “We are getting things like a $40,000 3D printer and a $50,000 (computer numerical control device), a computerized fabrication device. We are getting the training and learning that teachers will need to use this equipment and for students to be prepared to get certifications to get jobs. This will give them a heads-up over other students not getting these resources.”
Luce said Troy High School was selected for several factors, including its existing resources, staff and potential partners in the community.
“Troy was part of a Michigan contingency. So, last year, the foundation was awarded with a $6 million appropriation to expand PRIME to 16 new schools across the state,” he said. “We had a proven model that was successful, so in 2021 we got these funds. We talked with different educators and went to different districts. We got dozens of applications, and Troy was one of 16 high schools, depending on factors such as likelihood of success. We looked at what facilities it had, whether it had staff prepared to foster the PRIME program, and if there were local industry partners to work with in the area.”
He added that the key part of PRIME is the “partnership” component, and each school gets their PRIME partnership tailored to their needs.
“PRIME is in more than 80 schools across the country, and each one is specified to each individual school. It’s never an out-of-the-box, one-size-fits-all program,” said Luce. “We provide a handful of deliverables to the schools. Roughly two-thirds of what we spend at a school is reserved for new equipment. We also provide a curriculum plan aligned with their state education standards. We provide professional development to the teachers so they are certified on equipment and prepared to educate students. We also use PRIME to fund extracurricular activities like manufacturing days or after-school STEM-related clubs. Once it is up and running, over the course of about two years, we pay to maintain what we have set up there.”
Turner said the students will significantly benefit from these new resources.
“It means better opportunities with connecting students with industry experiences and learning opportunities that have business and equipment training that will open up career pathways for them,” he said. “Technology is getting more advanced. … You can design something in Michigan and send the design across the world online and they can build or 3D print it anywhere else. This is really amazing stuff, and our students are getting hands-on experience with it.”
The Troy High School’s college and career training program is part of Troy High School but it includes elective classes that are part of a comprehensive graduation opportunity. It provides elective choices in business, culinary education, manufacturing and more.
“I applied for both Athens and Troy to be part of this programming. I’m not sure what set Troy High School apart, but now it is my job to find the local funding to help Athens so we can do there what we are doing for Troy,” said Turner. “This will be primarily aimed at our emerging engineering education program. This funding enhances those programs and adds new learning pathways. We may even add classes with this new support.”
Luce said that ensuring there is a solid foundation for various industry education is a crucial element in the United States’ success.