Grants to Support Advanced Manufacturing Education

If the outlook of U.S. manufacturing is dependent on the quality of its future workforce, the view from Indianapolis certainly looks bright. With one school heading into its second year of national recognition via SME Education Foundation’s Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education (PRIME) program, and a second ready to begin its first, the city is poised to be a major contributor to the manufacturing talent pool.

3M awarded Walker Career Center and McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology a $10,000 grant per school to fund the programs. "We think that the grant is a fantastic opportunity for both programs to grow their classroom experiences and to engage those students that aren't sure if PLTW is the right program for them.  Our bigger opportunity is determining the methods that allow us to share our career experiences with the future workforce that these wonderful programs are developing. The vision we have for this partnership includes volunteering in the classroom where possible; manufacturing site tours to engage the students in what careers are available, including the faculty and students in new equipment installations to expose them to new technologies; and developing projects or challenges that allow the students to develop innovative solutions to real world problems.  We look forward to this journey with both Walker and Mckenzie's PLTW programs," said Robert Hoffman, Plant Manager 3M Aerospace.

The PRIME program was launched in fall 2011 in six states including Indiana. PRIME is designed to create strong partnerships between exemplary schools, businesses and organizations. Schools are nominated and selected based on a set of criteria including: an exemplary manufacturing curriculum which offers technology-based courses including Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM); skilled and dedicated instructors and administrators; engaged and active students; and strong corporate support from the local manufacturing community.

Walker Career Center (now entering its second year as PRIME) and McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology (a new PRIME school for 2012-2013) meet all of the above criteria. Said Bart Aslin, CEO, SME Education Foundation, “PRIME is an integral part of our investment in STEM education. The program is specifically designed to target three critical areas of focus: transforming manufacturing education, changing public perception of manufacturing and addressing the shortage of manufacturing and technical talent in the United States. We feel that our investment in both of these schools will go a long way toward helping us to achieve these goals. We couldn’t be more impressed with the staff, the curriculum and the enthusiasm of the students. The pledge of support from 3M makes it all possible.”

The funding from 3M will help both schools to update equipment and software, provide professional development for instructors, support their further involvement in competitions, provide scholarships for post-secondary education and host technology-based summer day camps.

Both of the schools implement a STEM-based approach guided by the Indianapolis-based Project Lead The Way (PLTW) curriculum to prepare students for post-secondary opportunities. Science, technology, engineering and mathematic content are embedded throughout its courses with emphasis placed on reading and writing in all career areas.

The manufacturing labs and curriculum were designed in cooperation with industry partners. Students have access to state-of-the-art equipment that meets or exceeds industry standards along with the latest technologies. Each facility provides students interested in engineering and manufacturing with hands-on design experience and a competitive edge for work or degree programs after high school.

“The continued support from the SME Education Foundation and 3M will take our program to the next level by providing our students with the real-world engineering and manufacturing knowledge they will need to be successful, contributing members of our community,” said Lou Anne Schwenn, director, Walker Career Center. “The PRIME program exemplifies the idea that cooperation between schools, corporations and the communities they serve is beneficial for all.”

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