While Cohen McGee was growing up in Constantine, Michigan, he was known for his love of all things STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Now 17 and a senior at Constantine High School, he has developed an interest in manufacturing that is reflected in his participation in SME’s PRIME (Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education) program at nearby Three Rivers High School, where he takes a career and technical education (CTE) course. He also has a corresponding co-op work apprenticeship at American Axle & Manufacturing in Three Rivers.
McGee has been working around 14 hours a week at American Axle since January 2023, when he found out about the position. “When our county CTE program went to American Axle during Manufacturing Week, they told us they would be accepting applications for high school co-ops, and I applied,” he says.
McGee splits his academic and work week between school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and work on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
At American Axle, he’s been able to take in all areas of manufacturing — from safety, quality and production to engineering, maintenance and materials. During his SME PRIME-supported CTE class, which he attends for three hours each Friday, McGee works on and with a variety of manufacturing-related processes and tools, including computer-aided design (CAD), tooling and gauges, CNC machining, woodworking, laser printing and robotics. He says his CTE class has helped him with his job at American Axle. In return, the job has helped him with his classes by offering context for the concepts he is learning.
In Fall 2024, McGee plans to major in mechanical engineering at Olivet Nazarene University, in Bourbonnais, Illinois. This summer, he hopes to work in civil engineering for the Elkhart County Highway Department or to continue working at American Axle.
Until then, he plans to continue taking advantage of and singing the praises of the SME PRIME-supported CTE program at Three Rivers High School.
“It’s definitely been an eye-opener, because there’s so much we get a taste of,” says McGee. “In only two years, it’s nice to see how much we’ve been able to get through.”
Long-term, McGee’s goal is to get a job where he — and others — can see the impact of his work. “When I get older, I’ll be able to point out to my kids, ‘Hey, I designed this,’ or ‘Hey, I built that house.’ Anything like that. I don’t want my work to go to waste.”