SOUTH CENTRE TOWNSHIP, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – High school seniors all across northeastern and central Pennsylvania are graduating this month. But there’s one group of seniors in our region with a unique distinction. As Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller explains, they’re the only ones trained through a national program aimed at closing a manufacturing industry gap.
Central Columbia High School students are getting a demonstration on a newly acquired piece of equipment at their school. It’s a Fanuc robotics handling tool you’d typically see in a high tech assembly line that, instead, will be used to teach the teens. Central Columbia High School junior Tessa Gill said, “Most typical high schools won’t offer these opportunities that we’re blessed with.”
Central Columbia held a news conference Wednesday about what made the tool possible: a program called SME PRIME. PRIME stands for Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education. Partnering with local industry, the program provides schools with expensive equipment and specialized curriculum at no cost to the district.
Central Columbia obtained Starrett precision measurement equipment last year through SME PRIME. Nearly 100 Central Columbia students are now Starrett certified. This is definitely not your mom and dad’s shop class. Central Columbia High School Engineering and Manufacturing Instructor EJ Smith said, “What we’re going to be able to do with these kids is definitely way above what you would have seen ten years ago in a shop.” He added, “I don’t know of any other schools at least in our area that have this.”
Central Columbia is one of only 47 schools across the country and one of only two in Pennsylvania participating in the SME PRIME program. How much of a difference does it make? Just ask the students. Ms. Gill said, “It’s been a huge part in helping me choose what career I’m looking into and what colleges I plan on applying to.” Central Columbia Senior Nathaniel Mathias discussed the educational edge it gives his school over peers from other high schools. “We were able to get computer programming called ToolingU where we can get industry-standard certification,” he said.
SME Education Foundation Educational Programs Manager Heather Cooper was one of the speakers at the news conference. Afterwards, she spoke with Eyewitness News and said, “They’re coming out of the program with industry certifications, hands-on skills that are directly tied to local manufacturers and the needs of those companies.” Creating a talent pipeline for the next crop of manufacturers and engineers.
Since 2011, more than 50,000 students in SME PRIME schools have benefited from exposure to state-of-the-art equipment, tailored curriculum and hands-on training.
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