To further its goal of upskilling the workforce — making it easier for manufacturers to access the talent needed for competitiveness and success — the Don Wood Foundation recently contributed $50,000 to fund four scholarships for the SME Education Foundation.
As part of the SME Education Foundation’s broader efforts to provide need-based scholarships, this project started taking shape in late 2022, when the SME Education Foundation approached the Don Wood Foundation about funding a scholarship geared toward manufacturing students in northeast Indiana — where the Don Wood Foundation is located — as well as northwest Ohio and southern Michigan. In early 2023, the request was approved by the Don Wood Foundation’s board.
“Part of the legacy of this foundation, and part of Don’s strong donor intent, was the concept of scholarships,” says Patrick Buesching, director of strategic initiatives for the Don Wood Foundation. Having succeeded Wood as CEO of the manufacturing company 80/20 Inc. in 2017, Buesching says, “Running a manufacturing firm has given me and the foundation an understanding of the necessity to truly understand the challenges around finding, training and deploying skilled people.”
Founded about 5-1/2 years ago, the foundation primarily focuses on entrepreneurship and advanced manufacturing.
“If you provide people with the opportunity to learn skills through scholarships, they have the opportunity to pack their own chute, and ultimately be successful for themselves, their families and the communities in which they live, play and work — and I think that’s really important,” says Buesching.
It’s particularly important in northeast Indiana, he notes, as the area is in dire need of all types of technically trained talent, including engineers. “Depending on who you ask, we’re going to need somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 to 800 engineers over the next 10 years,” says Buesching. For that reason, the foundation funds STEM-focused projects beginning with youth as young as kindergartners, first graders and second graders. “We know we’ve got to get people in the funnel all the way to postsecondary education and adult attainment,” explains Buesching.
So far, Buesching says working with the SME Education Foundation has been “fantastic,” as both foundations are highly collaborative — something he says is “somewhat unique” in the world of grantors and grantees, and stems from an underlying alignment between the two organizations.For more information on the Don Wood Foundation, visit donwoodfoundation.org. For information on funding a scholarship for the SME Education Foundation, visit smeef.org.