Saginaw Intermediate School District (ISD) became part of the SME PRIME school initiative shortly after receiving a grant from Michigan’s Marshall Plan for Talent. Legislation signed into law in June 2018, the Marshall Plan for Talent is a partnership between educators, employers and other stakeholders that is designed to improve the state’s talent pipeline.
Manufacturing was one of five occupational areas identified as high-demand, high-wage careers by the M-46 Talent Consortium convened by the Saginaw ISD in its grant application, but according to Jenny Geno, Executive Director of Career and Technical Education for Saginaw ISD, “It was our employers that actually introduced PRIME to us.”
“We have fantastic employers in our region,” added Ann Marie Batkoski, coordinator of business partnerships for Saginaw ISD. “Like Jenny said, they’re the ones that pushed this, they’re the ones that saw the need, and they’re the ones that wanted this. We’re just here to help oversee that, not only to fill their pipeline, but to put kids to work in really good jobs.”
To bring the PRIME program to fruition, Saginaw ISD formed a steering committee within the M-46 Talent Consortium made up of Jeremy Bockelman, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Bay Manufacturers Association and Executive Director of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center; Patrick Curry, president of Fullerton Tool Co.; Andy Stewart, general manager of Nexteer Automotive; Rob Luce, vice president of the SME Education Foundation; and Geno.
From there, the committee brought two others on board — Batkoski and Tanya Blehm, manager of the Great Lakes Bay Manufacturers Association — to, as Geno put it, “help with boots on the ground implementation and be that conduit between the steering committee and the local districts.” Mike Johnston, vice president of government affairs for the Michigan Manufacturers Association, was also instrumental in getting the project off the ground, according to Geno.
Saginaw ISD decided to do a full build of the PRIME program at the Saginaw Career Complex (SCC) — the career and technical education center for Saginaw County — and partial builds called “bolsters” in local districts. According to Geno, bolsters give students the opportunity to engage in manufacturing programs starting in the ninth grade, and in some schools, even earlier.
In those beginning classes, they get an introduction to manufacturing, learn how to use the equipment, find out what a manufacturing career looks like, and discover how to practice safety. If they decide they’re interested in going to the next level, they can enroll in the Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Academy at the SCC. “That is the final stop for high school students who are looking at manufacturing as a career, before heading to post-secondary training at Delta College, our local community college and consortium partner,” said Geno.
In the first phase of a new partnership between the Saginaw ISD and the SME PRIME (Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education) initiative, the ISD will receive new manufacturing equipment while instructors at seven high schools receive virtual and on-site professional development.
Although training has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Haas Automation Inc. will be on-site in Saginaw (Mich.) for five days in August 2020 to provide teachers with an introduction to CNC milling, and Lincoln Electric’s Torchmate division will deliver on-site training for its plasma table and cutter system. Teachers are also receiving virtual training in precision measurement instruments (PMI) and mechatronics from NC3.
In addition to Haas CNC machines and Torchmate plasma tables and cutters, Saginaw ISD’s new equipment will include Lincoln Electric welding systems and booths, Stratasys 3D printers, Snap-On precision measurement instrument kits, Festo mechatronics lab kits, Universal Robots cobots, Dremel 3D printers, CNC laser engravers and routers, manual milling machines and lathes, and fabrication equipment.
Due to COVID-19, Geno said she expects the district will gradually lay in the PRIME curriculum, including the implementation of online Tooling U-SME training classes at SCC — which might start this fall but might have to be pushed back to a later date, depending on what school looks like this fall.
In the meantime, Saginaw ISD continues to do whatever it can to expose students to manufacturing, whether it’s physically or virtually.
“Manufacturing can be challenging to recruit students into because of the wrong perceptions people have about what manufacturing is, and what it isn’t,” said Geno. “A lot of what we’ve been doing is exposure, and helping people to understand what manufacturing looks like, and what those opportunities are.
“We’ve done a number of talent tours and externships with our educators, and talent tours with our students in the county, but we didn’t get as far as we wanted, due to the physical school closures brought about by COVID-19. Those exposure pieces are critical to helping change that conversation and understanding.”
Batkoski agrees. “Having those talent tours is getting those kids exposed and on the inside of those buildings — buildings that they drive by every day.”
Referring to Saginaw ISD’s continuity-of-learning plan in the wake of COVID-19, Geno says one element that was really well-received was virtual talent tours. “If we can’t take [students] someplace, let’s keep having that conversation, and we’ll do it by any means possible.”