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Students at West Ottawa High School Gain Skills for Manufacturing Careers through SME PRIME®

West Ottawa, Mich., Dec. 11, 2023 – Since the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year, the SME Education Foundation has made it possible for students at West Ottawa High School to have access to new manufacturing education resources through its SME PRIME® program. The Foundation operates as the philanthropic arm of SME, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of manufacturing technology and fostering manufacturing and engineering talent and capabilities in North America.

Students-West-Ottawa-HS1-.jpgStudents, teachers, community members, and representatives of the Foundation were joined by Representative Nancy DeBoer, Michigan House of Representatives District 86, to celebrate the SME PRIME program on Friday, December 8 at the school. The event showcased the new SME PRIME program including classroom projects, equipment and involved participants.     

Since the program began, several students from the West Ottawa High School SME PRIME program have earned Industry Recognized Credentials (IRCs) which help employers validate the knowledge and skills of potential employees.

Students-West-Ottawa-HS2.jpg“SME has opened doors of opportunity for our metals and advanced metals students to have genuine experience that will lead them into their futures,” said West Ottawa High School Principal Kristine Jernigan. “Our district motto is to prepare kids to be college, career, and life ready. With SME’s grant, we are creating opportunities to educate our students in real-world scenarios.”

SME PRIME partners private industry with academia to build custom manufacturing and engineering programs in high schools across the country, providing equipment, curriculum, teacher training, student scholarships, and funding for extra-curricular activities and program sustainability. SME PRIME is tailored to meet the needs of local manufacturers and is aligned with over 30 IRCs. 

SME PRIME provides a robust learning experience responding to local workforce demands. 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 will 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.

“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 SME PRIME curriculum at West Ottawa High School provides a program of manufacturing and engineering education with hands-on training in high demand skill sets including metrology and quality, CAD/CAM, additive manufacturing, and machining and fabrication. The participating students have unique opportunities to learn about industry relevant, state-of-the-art equipment and prepare for promising careers. The average salary for Michigan manufacturing workers is over $85,000 annually, according to the U.S Census Bureau.

"Having the CNC machines in a high school setting really is a game changer for students looking to get into CNC machining as a career,” said West Ottawa High School SME PRIME student Tyler Kastens. “It provides a solid building block for students and having that knowledge puts them a step in the right direction or even one step ahead of the competition."

The Foundation worked with the Michigan Manufacturers association (MMA) to encourage area manufacturer engagement with the school and 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 limited talent pipeline and misperceptions about work environments and opportunities for young people.

Funding for West Ottawa High School’s SME PRIME program is part of a public private partnership between the SME Education Foundation and the State of Michigan, which has doubled to 33 the number of Michigan schools participating in SME PRIME.