Students and teachers at mid-Michigan’s Gratiot-Isabella Technical Education Center (GI-TEC) — part of the Gratiot-Isabella Regional Education Service District (RESD) — are benefiting from state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment and training made possible by area manufacturers and the SME PRIME (Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education) initiative.
A SME PRIME award valued at more than $150,000 allowed GI-TEC to enhance its existing career and technical education (CTE) program with the PRIME donation of two Snap-on Precision Measurement Instrumentation Kits: one for each of its two locations in Mount Pleasant and Alma. Through SME PRIME, GI-TEC was able to train and certify multiple teachers in the Snap-on program in conjunction with the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3). In addition, GI-TEC also received a Stratasys 3D printer, as well as licenses for online CAD instruction.
The idea for GI-TEC’s PRIME program started with the Central Michigan Manufacturing Association’s (CMMA) education special interest group, which meets monthly to discuss how education and manufacturing can support each other. According to Douglas Bush, Associate Superintendent for Career and Technical Education for the Gratiot-Isabella RESD, “We had seen PRIME work in other areas, and had been discussing it with our Central Michigan Manufacturing leaders.
” Those leaders played a critical role in facilitating the SME PRIME program with GI-TEC. The project was funded by 10 mid-Michigan manufacturers and related organizations: Aircraft Precision Products, America Mitsuba, Avalon & Tahoe, Bandit Industries Inc., Central Michigan Manufacturers Association, Gratiot Community Fund, Integrity Fab & Machine Inc., Isabella Bank, Morbark and Powell Fabrication.
After the SME PRIME program was fully funded, Tooling U SME was commissioned to perform a regional workforce analysis as well as a workforce needs assessment with input from the participating manufacturers. The research data, guided by input from the manufacturing partners as well as the participating high schools, helped to identify the career pathways of metrology and quality, CAD-CAM and engineering. Input from the manufacturing and educational partners also helped to fine-tune and customize the educational objectives and design of the curriculum plans for the SME PRIME program with both schools. “We had educators in the room as well, and then we aligned what we were teaching with what was identified by the needs assessment,” says Bush.
During the 2021-22 school year, 234 students from grades 9 through 12 participated in GI-TEC’s PRIME program, and more than 100 GI-TEC students have earned certifications in Precision Measurement Instrumentation through Snap-on to date. GI-TEC plans to expand its certification offerings to Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) in the near future as a result of educator participation in a unique, Stratasys sponsored, Additive Manufacturing Certification training this summer.
Bush credits local manufacturers for stepping up with more than just curriculum recommendations. “SME PRIME really shows the relationship that we have with our manufacturers and our community, and how well they support us,” says Bush. “Our manufacturers actually put their pocketbooks on the line, so that we could generate the funds to have these pieces of equipment.
To me, that’s a big deal.” And both groups have much to look forward to in terms of future employees, as SME PRIME data reveals that some 89% of graduating high school students who participate in SME PRIME have indicated they intend to enter the manufacturing workforce after high school graduation.