SME begins PRIME partnership to connect business, education, manufacturing

Six high schools will get grants to develop community-based approach to grow manufacturing


In fall 2011, the SME Education Foundation is launching PRIME (Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education), designed to create strong partnerships between organizations, businesses, and exemplary schools to provide a comprehensive, community-based approach to manufacturing education. This initiative builds on a five-year, $5.2 million investment in their STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) workforce development programs.


Six model schools have been selected in the first phase based on the following criteria: exemplary manufacturing curriculum and/or having a Project Lead The Way (PLTW) or Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) curriculum; skilled and dedicated instructors, engaged and active students; strong corporate or administrative support from the manufacturing community, and SME member involvement including SME local chapters.


The selected model schools include: Wheeling High School, Chicago, Ill.; Kettering Fairmont High School, Dayton, Ohio; Walker Career Center, Indianapolis, Ind.; Summit Technology Academy, Kansas City, Mo.; Hawthorne High School, Los Angeles, Calif., and Francis Tuttle Technology Center, Oklahoma City, Okla.  


An initial investment of $156,000 will provide each of the six model schools with a $10,000 grant to update equipment, software, and/or professional development; $1,000 for the development of after school technology competitions tied to organizations such as Skills USA and/or First Robotics; $5,000 for a Gateway Academy technology-based summer camp, and $10,000 in scholarship opportunities.


“Apprenticeship and job training programs have largely disappeared, and orientation programs are limited if at all. PRIME offers employers an opportunity to work with educators to describe real-world job functions and tailor coursework to their very specific skills needs,” says Bart A. Aslin, chief executive officer, SME Education Foundation. “We have a shared responsibility to influence public perception of manufacturing. We invite organizations to contact us about PRIME and take advantage of an opportunity to grow their business.”      


As a designated exemplary school, the school’s partnership team will include a manufacturing business to facilitate mentoring, tours of local businesses, and job shadowing. Access to a new website,, funded by the SME Education Foundation, will provide links to advanced manufacturing companies whose real-world professionals provide job descriptions and skill requirements.                                                                                                                                       


Reaching young people at an early age is critical to advanced manufacturers and their projected need for skilled workers in the next ten years, 2021. The Gateway Academy is a summer day camp for 6th and 8th graders, boys and girls, which introduces students to drafting and graphic design allowing them to use real lab equipment in a team environment. Students build robotic vehicles and gliders and learn about eco-design, manufacturing and alternative energy. In 2010, nearly 4,200 students attended Gateway camps in 34 states.


The PLTW Gateway to Technology curriculum builds on the summer camp experience. In high school, the Pathway to Engineering program introduces Engineering Design, Principles of Engineering and Digital Electronics and specialization courses which include Aerospace Engineering, Biotechnical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Architecture, and Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM).


The overall investment to-date is considerable. In addition to the $156,000 invested in the PRIME launch, $815,000 funded implementing the Gateway Academy program at an additional 220 schools and an upgrade to the CIM course equipment at 65 PLTW high schools.


An additional $400,000 funded the implementation of VEX Robotics Design Systems at 71 high schools across the country where CIM courses are offered. This included $75,000 in grant funding to significantly help purchase VEX kits for every PLTW Core Training Instructor responsible for training PLTW teachers nationwide. This funding completed CIM upgrades at 134 schools with the balance to be funded by 2012. Earlier this year, additional funding was directed to PLTW for 50 Gateway Academy schools in 19 states.


These SME Education Foundation funding initiatives mirror new policy proposals for improving STEM education outlined in a report issued by the President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology (PCAST), “Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) for America’s Future.”



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