Flint, MI—A national initiative is providing Genesee Career Institute (GCI) students with access to new technical education in order to nurture the next generation of manufacturers.

The initiative, known as SME Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education (PRIME), is a program of the SME Education Foundation, a nonprofit focused on fostering talent in engineering and manufacturing.

Bill Hoffman, an instructor of GCI’s mechatronics and robotics program, said SME PRIME has given the institute professional development opportunities and a host of new equipment. That equipment includes precision measurement instruments, a virtual welder, robots and training systems. 

“So far what we’ve used has been great,” Hoffman said. “[We] haven’t used everything yet, just because a lot of the equipment came towards the beginning of the school year, so I’ve been slowly indoctrinating it into the curriculum.” 

A conference attendee tries his hand at a welding simulator at the Genesee Career Institute in Flint, Mich. on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
David Sparks (right), a senior at Swartz Creek High School, works through a bug in a program he wrote for two new robotic arms at the Genesee Career Institute in Flint, Mich. on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

Earlier this year, SME Education Foundation announced that it received $6 million from the state of Michigan to scale up its SME PRIME initiative.

The funding enabled an additional 16 schools statewide, including GCI, to participate in the program. 

That brings the number of schools with SME PRIME in Michigan to 33. Overall, 81 schools across 22 states in the U.S. are participating in the program. 

“PRIME provides every school with equipment, curriculum, professional development for teachers, funding for extracurricular activities, so that students can actually walk the walk that can be their future,” Dr. Shelley Wooley, director of education programs at the SME Education Foundation, said during a press conference on Nov. 14, 2022. “And we offer students opportunities to apply for scholarships.” 

Instructor Bill Hoffman (left) turns on a robotic arm at the Genesee Career Institute in Flint, Mich. on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
A robot arm prepares to pick up a plastic block at the Genesee Career Institute in Flint, Mich. on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

Ultimately, the SME PRIME initiative aims to address the shortage of manufacturing jobs and increase students’ employment opportunities.

Hoffman said there is high demand for this type of talent in Genesee County, and one of the best parts about his job at GCI is teaching students about their career opportunities. 

“I’m just trying to educate them on what’s out there so that they can make those decisions,” he said. “Because when the day is done, it’s their decision to make, not mine. I just want to give them as much information and ammunition that they can maintain their heads to be able to make those decisions.” 

Parker Vanwert, a junior at Flushing High School, demonstrates a circuitry training module at the Genesee Career Institute in Flint, Mich. on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

Josh Brott, a senior at Fenton High School, said the GCI’s robotics and mechatronics program has helped him find what he aims to pursue in college. Brott hopes to study electrical engineering at Michigan State University or the University of Michigan. 

​“I’m really fortunate that now I have a way to know what I want to do and not be like, ‘Oh, I want to go to college but I don’t know what for,’” Brott said during the press conference.

For Parker Vanwert, a junior at Flushing High School, the robotics and mechatronics program has helped him appreciate the real world applications of his education. 

“When I come here, I can see … what I can get from school and apply to real life,” Vanwert told Flint Beat. “It makes school more bearable. Instead of just learning what’s the function of a graph, you can learn why that function matters.”

Nicholas Chan

Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *