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Press Release

Three Rivers High School Launches SME PRIME Program

Advanced Manufacturing Education Program Positions Students for High-Paying Careers

THREE RIVERS, MICH. – OCT. 20, 2023 – The SME Education Foundation today celebrated its SME Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education (PRIME) program at Three Rivers High School. The program, which has been offered since the start of the 2022-23 school year, provides students with manufacturing and engineering educational opportunities opening doors to related career pathways post-graduation. SME PRIME’s latest expanded partnership with the State of Michigan will add 16 new SME PRIME schools to Michigan, bringing the program to a total of 49 schools throughout the state in 2024.

Three Rivers students, teachers and community partners joined representatives of the SME Education Foundation, Three Rivers School District and local elected officials including Michigan State Representative Steve Carra to celebrate the SME PRIME program launch, showcasing classroom projects, equipment and student participants.

Since the start of the program at Three Rivers, 100% of the students participating in the SME PRIME program have earned industry recognized credentials (IRCs). Despite being in its initial year, over a quarter (29%) of the participating students who graduated in 2023 have elected to pursue careers in manufacturing, specifically through a trade or apprenticeship training program.


“Manufacturing remains one of the most important sectors in the Southwest Michigan economy, and manufacturing education holds the key to future economic growth and regional prosperity,” said Rob Luce, vice president, SME Education Foundation. “There is no more important asset to a strong manufacturing base than our young people. Providing hands-on opportunities to help today’s students learn advanced manufacturing techniques will pay dividends in Three Rivers, St. Joseph County and Southwest Michigan for years to come.” 

Informed by private industry, SME PRIME 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. After initial development funding, SME PRIME schools are eligible for sustainability grants to maintain their programs going forward.

SME PRIME provides a robust learning experience that aligns with over 30 industry-recognized certifications. Currently, there are nearly 550,000 manufacturing positions unfilled in the U.S. That shortage will grow to 2.5 million unfilled jobs by 2030 according to Deloitte. SME PRIME addresses this critical shortage by providing schools with a custom program 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.

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.

SME PRIME is currently located in 33 schools throughout Michigan, paving the way to high-paying jobs for students – an average of over $85,000 annually for the state’s manufacturing workers according to the U.S. Census Bureau – without running up massive student debt.

The students at Three Rivers will benefit from a curriculum plan that provides education and hands-on training in high-demand skill sets including Additive Manufacturing, Metrology and Quality, Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing, as well as Machining and Fabrication.

"We are thrilled to have a SME Prime school in St. Joseph County as part of our CTE Consortium," said Jim Berry, Director of Career & Technical Education, St. Joseph County ISD.  "The SME team has been amazing with their level of planning and support and now we get to celebrate with today's Launch event.  Phil Webb is an outstanding teacher who is always eager to learn more about advanced manufacturing processes and I'm confident he will lead our program to even greater success!  Our local manufacturing connections also provide incredible guidance and input on Phil's program, which will undoubtedly help students prepare for manufacturing career opportunities."