Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Manufacturing education strategy could help solve skills gap

September 14, 2012
By The Society of Manufacturing Engineers

Manufacturers, educators, professional organizations and governments in both Canada and the U.S. need to coordinate and standardize efforts aimed at reversing the skills gap crisis and preparing a skilled workforce for the high-tech manufacturing jobs of today and tomorrow.

Currently, 600,000 jobs in the U.S. alone are currently unfilled due to a shortage of properly trained workers. By 2015, that number is projected to reach 3 million openings.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) is working on a national action plan: “Workforce Imperative: A Manufacturing Education Strategy,” to address that manufacturing education void. What are some strategies to help combat this?

• Attracting more students into manufacturing
• Articulating a standard core of manufacturing knowledge
• Improving the consistency and quality of manufacturing education
• Integrating manufacturing topics into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education
• Developing faculty that deliver a world-class manufacturing education
• Strategically deploying resources to accomplish these goals


“It is imperative that manufacturing is working hand-in-hand with education to properly train and educate both our current and future workforce,” says SME 2012 president LaRoux K. Gillespie, Dr. Eng., FSME, CMfgE, PE, retired quality manager of Honeywell’s Federal Manufacturing & Technologies Division. “We must attract young people to the rewarding opportunities to improve the world around them that exist in manufacturing and then provide them with the educational foundation necessary to succeed.”

SME’s Task Force on the Role of SME in Higher Education and members of SME’s Manufacturing Education & Research Community studied the issue for two years, closely examining the state of manufacturing education. The research was conducted through a series of events held to discuss manufacturing education, which engaged hundreds of stakeholders from industry, government and education.

“SME’s initiative demonstrates a vision that unites educators, industry, and government agencies in working toward a common goal of building our country’s 21st-century workforce,” says Martin L. Scaglione, president, ACT, Workforce Development Division.

The Manufacturing Education Strategy is the latest of SME’s ongoing contributions to solving the skilled worker shortage. It helps fill the pipeline through the various programs of the SME Education Foundation, including the Partnership Response in Manufacturing Engineering (PRIME) project which emphasizes a community-based approach to manufacturing education and job creation by creating strong partnerships between exemplary schools, businesses and organizations.

SME is a founding partner in the NAM-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System and serves as a leading voice in national discussions on manufacturing workforce issues.  The Society’s educational programs, including its online courses offered through Tooling U, map to the skills certification system and are based on an industry-validated body of knowledge.

The Workforce Imperative strategy is already being embraced among leaders in manufacturing education, workforce development and STEM supporters.  Early endorsers include ACT, the Automation Federation, the American Society for Engineering Education’s (ASEE) Corporate Member Council, Engineering Technology Council and Manufacturing Division, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering (ATMAE), FIRST, the National Center for Manufacturing Education (NCME), Project Lead the Way (PLTW), SkillsUSA, and the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC).

For more information on SME’s recommendations or to download a copy of the strategy, visit or send an email to

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