The Foundation's first quarter saw a 95% increase in scholarship applications with female student applications doubling, minority student applications nearly tripling, and the minority female participation rate increased by a factor of four. Scholarships are central to our mission to inspire, prepare and support young people in their pursuit of manufacturing and engineering education and training.
The SME Education Foundation's renewed and focused commitment to a diversity, equity and inclusion strategy is designed to fully integrate diversity and equity opportunities in every program, effort and initiative undertaken by the Foundation. The Foundation created and established a new Irving P. McPhail Scholarship Fund and will begin focusing its growth efforts on the nation’s Title I schools.
A newly established scholarship fund for students in underrepresented communities is a crucial component of the SME Education Foundation’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategy, designed to fully integrate diversity and equity opportunities in every program, effort and initiative undertaken by the foundation over the next five years.
Valerie Freeman, a manufacturing and robotics pathway teacher at Park High School, will join the SME Education Foundation Board of Directors in 2021. Park High School in Racine Unified School District joined the SME PRIME school network in 2017. Freeman was instrumental in utilizing SME PRIME to install new curriculum, training to teach students important skills like how to program a robotic arm and remodeling the classroom for a more effective learning environment.
Rob Luce, vice president of the SME Education Foundation, was featured in a Quality Magazine article about the COVID-19 virus disrupting businesses worldwide and how training employees presents new challenges. Luce weighed in on the struggle within industry to find talent with soft skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.
Industry knows that the current — and looming larger, the future — lack of skilled and prepared employees is severe. This skills gap could lead to a shortage of as many as 2.4 million manufacturing workers in the next decade. Our challenge remains the same, and our education and industry partners share that challenge: How can we attract, interest — and then inspire young people to explore the opportunities being offered?