New partnership to address manufacturing talent gap

Krystle Wagner • Jun 20, 2017 at 12:00 PM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — A new collaborative effort is aimed at providing local students with an education while also impacting the manufacturing field.

Shape Corp., SME, Grand Haven Area Public Schools, and the Michigan Manufacturers Association are teaming up for the Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME), with the goal to provide the opportunity for Grand Haven High School students to receive an education with curriculum that will help them develop skills needed in the manufacturing workforce.

Shape Corp. is investing more than $300,000 toward the collaboration.

“All of these groups have come together to deal with and provide a viable and game-changing solution to an issue that manufacturers around the country and here in West Michigan face,” said Shape Corp. Vice President Doug Peterson. “The good news is that manufacturing is back and it’s cool again. The bad news is, the challenge is that we’ve had a significant talent gap between what manufacturing needs today and in the future to continue to grow and be a vibrant employer here in the United States, and specifically in West Michigan.”

P.R.I.M.E. has four main goals: (1) provide advanced manufacturing classes and curriculum to GHHS; (2) leverage the partnership with Society for Manufacturing and Engineering for curriculum development; (3) make sure there’s an ongoing loop so education doesn’t become obsolete; and (4) provide students with a vision and path to jobs.

GHAPS Superintendent Andy Ingall said the school district wants to make sure students graduate with “a wealth of opportunities,” and PRIME is another door to provide those opportunities. Regardless of where students find their passion in the manufacturing fields, Ingall said there are a variety of careers available.

PRIME provides “high-quality talent right here at home,” Ingall added.

GHHS Principal Tracy Wilson said the school has an innovative staff and the building has the ability to expand and grow for PRIME Given the block scheduling for classes and opportunities they provide, Wilson said PRIME will be another reason why GHHS “will be the choice on the Lakeshore” for students to attend.

Currently, students have the opportunity to receive college credit and attend the Careerline Tech Center.

“This is another layer of opportunity for the student who is maybe wanting to stay local and having the ability to do something right here within our community,” Wilson said.

During the first semester in the program, the district will look at the current curriculum and ways to embed PRIME. Then, students can see where it will fit in when they select classes for the 2018-19 school year, Wilson said.

Ingall said there are “existing courses that dovetail perfectly,” and they’re excited about how the changes will enhance and advance the curriculum.

In addition to bringing curriculum and opportunities to high school students, the partnership officials say they are hoping to shift the conversation and change misconceptions about the manufacturing industry.

Roger Curtis, director of the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development, said he applauds business and education communities for talking about what needs to be done for the next generation. He said the conversation needs to change from “where do you want to go?” to “what do you want to do?”

Jeff Krause, executive director/CEO of the SME Education Foundation, said there’s a manufacturing resurgence happening. Currently, more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States aren’t filled because there’s a lack of talent, he said, and some employers estimate that up to 75 percent of their workforce will be retiring within the next five years.

Based on a 2016 survey, about 76 percent of manufacturers say their company’s training for employees isn’t adequate to meet future needs, while 75 percent don’t offer a structured training program, and many employers say they aren’t sure how to fill the gap, Krause said.

Grand Haven school board President John Siemion, who worked at GHSP, said it wasn’t until he was in his mid-40s that he learned he had a passion for computers. He said the PRIME partnership will provide students with another opportunity to succeed and find their passion.

Michigan Manufacturers Association Vice President Mike Johnston said they look forward to the collaboration’s success because it will serve as a model for the rest of the state for public-private partnerships and business and education communities working together.

PRIME gives West Michigan an opportunity to be a leader, said state Rep. Jim Lilly, R-Park Township. As educators and employers partner, Lilly said he hopes the state Senate and governor will approve the bills the House recently passed, which would help make curriculum more flexible.

“Our students deserve these opportunities,” he said.


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