Students at Apollo High School — in St. Cloud, Minnesota — will be better able to discover and pursue career opportunities in the manufacturing field with the school’s new SME PRIME (Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education) program. The three-year implementation process will be completed in December 2022. To celebrate their success, the SME Education Foundation and Apollo High School have planned a Launch event in November 2022. Apollo’s business partners, SME PRIME representatives, and educators from the school’s district will share the many benefits the program provides including several new pieces of equipment, such as a Universal Robots cobot, Haas Mini Mill, Formlabs 3D printers, and precision measurement tools. The school also received an industry donation of a large granite table for precision measuring, and a digital read-out installation for Apollo’s existing drill press.
Justin Skaalerud, principal at Apollo, is excited about the SME PRIME program, which is supported by local businesses — including International Precision Machining, Grede LLC, C4 Welding, CWMF Corporation and Park Industries.
“I think the PRIME program is an amazing opportunity for our students to see potential careers and see themselves in those careers,” says Skaalerud. “Being able to open their eyes to different opportunities, and especially ones that are in our own backyards, is why the business relationships are so important. We’re not just speaking in general terms, we’re talking about specific places, specific roles, and specific opportunities these students can go into.”
According to Skaalerud, SME PRIME resources will be infused into Apollo’s 9th-grade career exploration course, called EPIC. PRIME information and course content will also be woven into the school’s manufacturing track, focused on robotics and metals, and its information technology track, focused on coding. About 120 students from all classes will be involved in the PRIME program during the 2022-23 school year.
The move to get SME PRIME into Apollo High School began in Fall 2018, when the school pulled local employers together to measure interest in the program and to help it make decisions on participation. “We’re in an area of about 125,000 to 140,000 people, and there’s a large amount of industry in our area for our students to pursue,” says Skaalerud.
As the PRIME program is just beginning at Apollo, Skaalerud doesn’t have information yet on how many participants will continue with post-secondary education or go straight into the workforce. But to date, he says Apollo graduates have been a mixture of those who go on to two- and four-year educational institutions, and those who have become welders and operators of CNC machines immediately after high school.
As for Apollo’s future plans for the PRIME program, Skaalerud says that as part of the district's 2022-25 strategic plan, the school will ensure that 100% of SME PRIME students participate in an industry experience, receive college credit, and/or earn an industry certification before graduation. “PRIME has bolstered our manufacturing and information tech tracks so that students are prepared for current industry technologies, and thus employment,” says Skaalerud. “We aim to grow from the great place PRIME has jumpstarted for us.”
To learn more about how you can bring SME PRIME to your community, visit: smeef.org