New Partnership Expands Advanced Manufacturing Opportunities for High School Students

Manufacturing jobs are on the rise, but the industry is dealing with a severe shortage of workers equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to function in advanced manufacturing workplaces. To help close the skills gap, NASA’s agency-wide HUNCH (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware) program and the SME Education Foundation’s PRIME (Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education) program are partnering to further expand the pipeline of skilled manufacturing talent in the U.S. This new collaboration will attract and introduce more high school students to career opportunities in the industry and prepare them to become the next generation workforce for jobs that are in high demand.

Predictions indicate that 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be available in the U.S. by 2025. Unfortunately, a significant skills gap will result in 2 million of these jobs going unfilled. NASA and the SME Education Foundation are proud to work together to help solve this talent crisis.

“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,” said Brian Glowiak, vice president of the SME Education Foundation. “Through this partnership we are motivating youth to consider careers in manufacturing and preparing them with the skillsets and knowledge to succeed.”

PRIME connects regional manufacturers with local high schools to establish or build manufacturing education programs that will grow the workforce in their communities. The SME Education Foundation works with schools to provide industry-driven training for teachers as well as curriculum for the students, while also giving both access to real-world manufacturing equipment and resources.

The HUNCH program provides high school students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience producing actual hardware identified by NASA scientists, astronauts, and engineers for training and deployment in the International Space Station (ISS). Since 2003, HUNCH students have made hundreds of products for NASA including single stowage lockers, cargo transfer bags, three-minute educational videos, and experiments to fly on the ISS.

Students who experience PRIME and HUNCH enter college or move into post-secondary careers with essential advanced manufacturing knowledge and expertise.

Through the HUNCH program, PRIME schools will have the opportunity to build actual hardware with NASA mentors, bringing a technology focus to even more high schools. Alternately, HUNCH schools will now be part of the PRIME network, having access to SME student memberships, mentoring programs, and technical resources.

“Being involved in programs like HUNCH and PRIME gives our students a chance to experience the best of both worlds – education and manufacturing – and we’re excited to see them combine efforts,” said Dr. Aaron Smith, program director at Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy. “This collaboration will expose a greater number of students to real-life work experiences that they will carry with them throughout their careers.”

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