The SME Education Foundation, which has awarded more than $8 million to nearly 3,500 students since 2005, has recorded a 95% increase in completed scholarship applications over its historical average.
Female and minority applications increased significantly in 2021. Female student applications doubled and minority student applications nearly tripled, increasing 182%. The demographic with the largest increase was minority females, whose participation rate increased by a factor of four, or 242%.
These improved results are the outcome of focused outreach to students, academic institutions and education and industry advocacy groups. The results underscore interest in and desire among diverse students for STEM opportunities.
The Foundation awards scholarships annually to graduating high school seniors, undergraduates and graduate students pursuing two or four-year degrees in manufacturing and related engineering disciplines.
“The Foundation is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion throughout our portfolio of initiatives to prepare and support students in their pursuit of educational and career opportunities,” said Rob Luce, vice president of the SME Education Foundation. “Through expanded outreach, meaningful partnerships and the leadership of our diverse and accomplished board, we are making a difference and improving opportunity for all students.”
Currently, only 21% of Engineering bachelor’s degree recipients are women and underrepresented minorities earn only 12.5% of all bachelor’s degrees in Engineering.
“Industry knows, as does the Foundation, that diversity and inclusion is an imperative,” said Frank Ervin, group vice president for government affairs at Piston Group LLC and vice president of the SME Education Foundation Board. “Manufacturing is facing a well-known current and increasing skills gap in their talent pipelines — that’s a gap that also reflects a social and economic gap in underrepresented communities — it’s our responsibility and a strategic imperative to provide those education and skills training opportunities.”
The Foundation is one of many manufacturing and engineering organizations nationwide that are reexamining their diversity, equity and inclusion programs and policies, placing an imperative on diversifying operations from the ground up.
One of the crucial components of the Foundation’s strategy is the creation of a new scholarship fund for underrepresented young people. The recently established Irving P. McPhail Scholarship Fund — named for the late St. Augustine University (an historically black college/university) president and president of the 2020 SME Education Foundation — will award scholarships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and manufacturing to minority and/or female students.
Scholarship applications are currently being rigorously reviewed by 90 academic and industry professionals and financial awards will be made to students in May.