Within the next 10 years, it is predicted that 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will become available. However, without the right skilled workers for those jobs, estimates show that two million of them could go unfilled. If you are familiar with SME’s overall purpose—advance manufacturing and attract future generations—the organization is addressing this skills gap through its various products and services.
Where will that workforce come from? Obviously, it comes from the ability to effectively attract talented people to manufacturing, and through the effective development of skills, knowledge and ability. Across the nation, thousands of schools, colleges and universities promise to provide that education. But are they consistently successful, equipping students with the relevant and applicable tools valued and needed by research and industry?
One of the ways SME addresses this question is one of its best-kept secrets: Accreditation. Since 1974, SME has partnered with ABET (formerly Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.) to evaluate technical programs that lead to degrees in engineering, engineering technology, computing, and natural and applied sciences.
Leadership and Impact
The extensive accreditation process for this expanse of programs provides a great opportunity for SME members to be directly involved in a very meaningful way. SME members can be part of the accreditation process at every level, providing leadership and influence through visits to institutions, discussions with administrators, and meeting and building relationships with faculty and students. That interaction is key to building effective, current and relevant programs, curricula and instruction, ensuring the nation’s workforce is fully prepared for the challenges and opportunities of manufacturing.
SME activities supporting the global accreditation of manufacturing education programs include:
- Providing manufacturing subject-matter experts (team chairs, commissions, ABET board, board councils, program evaluators),
- Coordinating representation and input on accreditation visits, processes and policies,
- Defining appropriate requirements for manufacturing programs (criteria),
- Advocating for and promoting the quality of manufacturing programs through accreditation.
Through its partnership with ABET, SME is the lead organization for manufacturing engineering and manufacturing engineering technology, and cooperating organization for engineering management, industrial management, mechanical drafting and design, quality management and welding.
A Foundation of Four Pillars
Degree programs are evaluated against both general and program-specific criteria. Again, SME is the lead organization for both manufacturing engineering and manufacturing engineering technology programs, where the program-specific criteria are based on SME’s Four Pillars of Manufacturing Knowledge:
- Materials and manufacturing processes,
- Product, tooling and assembly engineering,
- Manufacturing systems and operations,
- Manufacturing competitiveness.
The program-specific criteria are the basis by which manufacturing engineering and manufacturing engineering technology programs are developed and delivered by the program faculty and then evaluated for accreditation by ABET.
SME’s Education and Accreditation Committee is the liaison between SME, the degree programs and ABET. The committee is in place as a source of manufacturing experts who volunteer to evaluate degree programs for evaluation, ensure appropriate accreditation standards have been established and met, and support manufacturing-related degree programs in their pursuit of accreditation. In addition, the committee is a resource for the SME Board of Directors regarding accreditation. The ongoing agenda for the SME Education and Accreditation Committee has four elements:
- Promote the benefits of postsecondary manufacturing education programs based on the Four Pillars of Manufacturing Knowledge and accreditation of these manufacturing education programs globally through engagement of academia and employers,
- Maintain the currency and relevancy of manufacturing program accreditation criteria to contemporary manufacturing environments and practices and ensure they are forward looking,
- Identify, recruit and train the best manufacturing education and industry leaders to support and become engaged for development of innovative manufacturing education programs and engagement in accreditation activities,
- Formally recognize people, institutions and companies for excellence in their support and engagement in manufacturing accreditation.
An Ongoing Opportunity
SME has been an advocate for the manufacturing profession in general and manufacturing education specifically, since its inception more than 80 years ago, and it remains part of our mandate and our commitment. That leadership mantle must always include our appropriate attention to the future of the industry and the future opportunity for young people exploring and preparing to make their own important contributions.
Our role as liaison between industry and institutions, with ABET, allows all of us to play a very active, meaningful role in creating the next world-class, industry-leading manufacturing workforce. I invite you to learn more about SME’s role in accreditation, and the opportunity you have to shape, influence and impact your industry in arguably the most meaningful way possible. Every action taken by SME to promote, guide and implement ABET accreditation underscores our commitment to advancing manufacturing and developing the manufacturing workforce.
Some accreditation facts: As of Oct. 2016, there were 3709 accredited ABET programs, broken down into these areas:
- Applied and Natural Sciences (ANSAC): 87
- Computing (CAC): 461
- Engineering (EAC): 2550
- Engineering Technology (ETAC): 629.