SME Education Foundation & NASA Collaborate To Bridge The Manufacturing Skills Gap

The manufacturing industry continues to struggle with the ever present skills gap. Modern manufacturing is often perceived by the public as an outdated industry, unable to offer the fulfillment they desire. Now, new technological advancements have brought the industry into the 21st century and it’s a perfect industry for the younger workforce. However, all this new technology requires a new kind of skill set and schools aren’t offering the right kind of education, training and encouragement to get students interested in advanced manufacturing.

The SME Education Foundation has been hard at work for years helping to bring manufacturing education back to the school system. Skills such as mechatronics, programming, welding, CNC machining, metrology and others have all but vanished and manufacturers and graduates are left paying the price. Manufacturers can’t find the individuals with the necessary skills to fill the  estimated 600,000 vacant manufacturing jobs today and graduates are stuck under prepared for the work that’s out there. But this foundation is taking another step forward to help close the looming skills gap.

SME and NASA will be teaming up to improve manufacturing education and show just how important the modern manufacturing really is. “SME Education Foundation announced a new partnership with NASA’s agency-wide HUNCH (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware) program, to get more youth engaged in advanced manufacturing and ultimately encourage them to consider and pursue long-term careers in the industry.”

It’s expected that the manufacturing industry will need 3.5 million manufacturing jobs in the U.S. alone by 2025. Nearly 2 million of these positions may go unfilled because of the lack of education and training offered to students. NASA and the SME Education Foundation both bring a unique perspective to this issue and it could have a big impact on the future of manufacturing and employment.

“By combining our PRIME network with NASA’s HUNCH program and working together to further expand the number of schools in the combined network, we can provide more students with access to a STEM and manufacturing focused education using hands-on learning experiences,” Brian Glowiak, VP of SME Education Foundation said. He continued, “Through this partnership we are motivating youth to consider careers in manufacturing and preparing them with the skillsets and knowledge to succeed.”

The HUNCH program offers high school students the chance to get hands-on when it comes to learning. Students are able to experience what it’s actually like to produce the hardware used by NASA scientists, astronauts and engineers in training and deployment in the International Space Station (ISS). HUNCH students have already made hundreds of products for NASA. Programs like this are extremely powerful when it comes to encouraging students to pursue a manufacturing career. They have the ability to see their idea become a reality right before their eyes.

SME Education Foundation’s’ PRIME brings together regional manufacturers with local high schools, establishing or creating educational programs to grow their workforce around these businesses. PRIME works closely with schools, providing the institutions and teachers an industry-driven curriculum for the students. The educational materials are specifically designed to offer students the skills they will need to become a top choice for the advanced manufacturers looking for new talent. The program also gives students and teachers access to real-world manufacturing equipment and resources so they’re properly prepared for a career after school.

This partnership is an incredible step forward, helping close the skills gap one student at a time. In a business environment where manufacturers are utilizing amazing and sophisticated technology, skills and training will be essential on a level never before seen. The SME Education Foundation’s PRIME and NASA’s HUNCH program are incredible initiatives on their own, but this collaborative effort will help expand their impact and hopefully bridge the ever present skills gap.