Skip to content

Press Release

Alpena High School Students Learn Skills for Manufacturing Careers in SME PRIME Program

(ALPENA, Mich. Oct. 3, 2023) – New manufacturing education opportunities have been accessible to 185 students at Alpena High School in Alpena, Mich. from the start of the 2022-23 school year through the SME Education Foundation. The Foundation is the philanthropic arm of SME, the national nonprofit committed to accelerating new manufacturing technology adoption and building North America’s manufacturing talent and capabilities.

Students, teachers and community partners joined representatives of SME to celebrate the SME PRIME program on Friday, September 29 at the school. The event showcased the new PRIME program, including classroom projects, equipment and involved participants.

Since the start of the program in Alpena, 86 students have been awarded industry recognized credentials (IRCs). Of the 65 participating students who graduated in 2023, 77% (50 students) are pursuing manufacturing either through post-secondary education at a two- or four-year institution, a trade or apprenticeship training, or entry into the workforce.

Informed by private industry, SME PRIME (Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education) builds custom manufacturing and engineering programs in high schools across the country, providing equipment, curriculum and professional development. SME PRIME supports engagement in manufacturing-focused extracurricular activities for students and teachers as well as student applications for scholarship funding through the SME Education Foundation. 

SME PRIME provides a robust learning experience that aligns with over 30 industry-recognized certifications. Currently, there are nearly 500,000 U.S. manufacturing positions unfilled. That shortage will grow to 2.5 million unfilled jobs by 2030. SME PRIME addresses this critical shortage by providing schools with resources for instruction that meets the needs of local manufacturers. To date, SME PRIME is in 93 schools across 23 states, serving 9,000 students. Most importantly, 91% of SME PRIME seniors pursue manufacturing post-graduation.

Rob Luce, Vice President,
SME Education Foundation

“Coordinated by our staff of highly qualified education program managers, SME PRIME schools are a model; a unique approach to manufacturing education and career preparation implemented by scores of schools across the nation,” said SME Education Foundation Vice President Rob Luce. “The SME PRIME program bolsters the industry’s talent pipeline to ensure North America’s industrial base remains strong.”

The Foundation worked with the Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA) to encourage area manufacturer engagement with the school and to solicit regional manufacturer input to guide the unique, research-informed curriculum plan developed for the school. The MMA, which represents traditional and advanced manufacturing enterprises across the state, has been a partner in developing Michigan SME PRIME schools and is critically important in supporting efforts by an industry facing a limited talent pipeline and misperceptions about work environments and opportunities for young people.

“Through PRIME, Alpena Schools has advanced technologies to pique the interest of any student exploring engineering, robotics, the skilled trades or any other manufacturing career. We have first-class facilities, equipment and teachers for our students to work with,” said Joyce McCoy, director of Career & Technical Education/CEPD 9 & Region 4 Coordinator for Alpena Public Schools. “Thank you SME PRIME for investing in northeast Michigan! The next CEO of one of our major companies is training in our classroom today!”

“I am truly excited for the community of Alpena today. The SME prime initiative truly makes a difference in students' personal and career goals,” said Roger Tadajewski, executive director of the National Coalition of Certifications Centers (NC3), a SME PRIME partner. “For the community, this kind of collaboration benefits not only the students but also the local businesses, as it helps align the needs of industry, the demands of the national workforce, and prepares students for successful careers.”

Funding for Alpena High School’s SME PRIME program is part of a $6 million appropriation by the state of Michigan in 2021 in the School Aid Fund Budget (PA 48 of 2021), which was crafted with bipartisan support from the Michigan Legislature. The award doubled to 33 the number of schools participating in the unique manufacturer/educator partnership-driven SME PRIME initiative.