SME Convenes College Presidents and State Manufacturing Associations on the Manufacturing Imperative - Workforce Pipeline Challenge

(SOUTHFIELD, Mich., January 18, 2023) — SME, the national nonprofit committed to accelerating new manufacturing technology adoption and building North America’s manufacturing talent and capabilities, met with Presidents from each of the educational institutions participating in the Manufacturing Imperative – Workforce Pipeline Challenge  (MI-WPC) to discuss the strengths and challenges in filling the industry’s workforce shortage and skills gap crisis.

The MI-WPC is a three-year pilot program with a goal to attract 1,000 individuals at each of the initial participating community and technical colleges annually, resulting in 75,000 or more qualified workers in pursuit of manufacturing careers. The estimated economic impact of growing the industry’s workforce is an estimated $6 billion.   

Launched Fall 2023, the program combines the industry and workforce expertise of SME with the educational programs and innovations of a select group of U.S. community and technical colleges. “Through this collaboration, the initiative is building awareness of careers in manufacturing, optimizing workforce systems, and accelerating the education and skill development needed to place individuals in jobs making family-sustaining wages”, said Jeannine Kunz, Chief Workforce Development Officer, SME. Since our launch we have onboarded 2 colleges, 14 more are scheduled over the next several months, with the remaining colleges to be scheduled by April. 

“We are thrilled to host a series of both President’s Advisory Council and Manufacturing Association Advisory Council meetings to progress this public and private sector initiative and keep the momentum moving forward,” said Dr. Deb Volzer, government and workforce partnerships director for SME, who is leading the MI-WPC initiative. “Additionally, we regularly bring together those implementing the initiative at each institution in our “Champion” meetings where best practices are identified and shared.” 

"We're pleased with the turnout and engagement at our inaugural President's advisory meeting on January 12th. This gathering allowed us to establish a unified vision and identify key topics for future discussions,” said Dr. Sheree Utash, President of WSU Tech and Chair of the MI-WPC President’s council. “Our primary goal is to support the prosperity of local, regional, and state manufacturing communities. We're committed to collaborating with SME to develop robust sector strategies and partnerships, ensuring a strong pipeline for skilled workers in both short and long-term goals and ensuring their placement into the workforce.”

The well-attended monthly Champion meetings are laying the groundwork for the Workforce Pipeline Challenge. Best practices such as how to attract students in STEM related programs, develop and deploy curriculum aligned to the needs of local industry, change the narrative around manufacturing, and deploy strategies to build stronger relationships with school districts will be shared nationally. This will help other programs implement innovative solutions to grow local economies, reduce barriers to employment, and fill vacant manufacturing jobs. 

“We are thrilled to be partnering with SME on this work, along with the other state associations, to provide statewide and regional information from what we are hearing from the industry,” said Michael Eaton, Executive Director of Missouri Association of Manufacturers and Chair of SME’s Manufacturing Advisory Council that convened, yesterday, January 17th. “At the core of how we, as state manufacturing associations, can have the largest impact for the industry we serve is by helping to solve the manufacturing industry’s “skilled” workforce gap that remains the most critical importance for our local economy and the growth of our industry.”

SME selected 25 initial pilot institutions and looks forward to expanding this initiative to other educational institutions throughout the United States. The inaugural participating institutions are as follows:

  • Calhoun Community College
  • College of Lake County
  • Columbus State Community College
  • Dallas College
    • Cedar Valley College
    • Eastfield College
  • Edmonds College
  • Grand Rapids Community College
  • Greenville Technical College
  • Lorain County Community College
  • Motlow State Community College
  • Patrick & Henry Community College
  • Pellissippi State Community College
  • Richard J. Daley College
  • Schoolcraft College
  • South Central College
  • Charles Community College
  • Louis Community College
  • Tulsa Community College
  • Wake Technical Community College
  • Wallace State Community College
  • Wilbur Wright College
  • WSU Tech
For more information on the Workforce Pipeline Challenge, or to learn more about opportunities to engage with and support the program, contact Dr. Debra Volzer,