The New Faces of Manufacturing: DEI at Work

SME engagement

SME partners with key industry groups such as Women in Manufacturing to support and advance diversity, equity and inclusion across the manufacturing industry.

Prior to joining SME in November 2021 as Membership Manager, I reviewed SME Board photos and biographies. It was important to me to join an organization that reflects the community it serves.

I was pleased to learn that the composition of the board included people from various employment sectors, skills, ages, genders, cultures and ethnicities in the manufacturing sector. Having a diverse board and leadership team demonstrates that an organization welcomes different experiences which, when shared and honored, can lead to effective solutions, especially in manufacturing, where products are created and used. around the world for use in people’s daily lives.

Additionally, SMEs support efforts to create spaces for underrepresented groups to have a seat at the table within the manufacturing community.

The right thing to do

There have been positive changes related to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the manufacturing sector; the pandemic has accelerated some of these changes. However, as the perception of manufacturing evolves to attract and retain a talented workforce, it is essential that DEI does not become a fad fueled by social pressures.

DEI is necessary because it is the right thing to do – to grow, progress and integrate into companies. It drives innovation and strongly supports the manufacturing industry ecosystem, from large industrial manufacturing companies to small and medium enterprises striving to adopt the latest smart technologies to those creating pathways to prosperity through workforce development initiatives.

The diversification of manufacturing at all levels is necessary to combat the epidemic shortage of skilled workers, boost the relevance of the profession and innovate to better serve the end users of manufactured products.

In November, I presented the 2023 Membership Strategy to the SME Board of Directors and the SME Member Council, a member-driven leadership group that helps lead the member engagement activities of the networks of SME volunteers. I have shared my vision for SME to bring together the largest and most engaged community of members that is representative of all voices in manufacturing with a concerted effort to increase the number and engagement points of women, minorities and other emerging professionals. It will take continuous and consistent improvements to have a more significant impact in this area. By expanding our reach to underrepresented communities, we will increase the value of everything we do. I am proud of the steps we are taking in this area.

Recent initiatives

In May, SME and Women in 3D Printing (Wi3DP) joined forces to attract and build a diverse next-generation workforce to advance the additive manufacturing industry. The collaboration includes the co-production of the Technology, Industry, People and Economy (TIPE) conference, which features an all-female lineup of speakers and panelists. This year’s virtual global TIPE event will take place January 24-26, followed by the launch of the “Wi3DPShowcase” at RAPID+TCT in Chicago in May. This important showcase will extend the value of TIPE with an in-person experience. Additionally, the collaboration will deliver a NextGen mentorship pilot and a co-authored 2023 Diversity for Additive Manufacturing Annual Report.

U-SME Tooling, the workforce development arm of SME, provides versatile learning and development solutions to the manufacturing ecosystem. Tooling U-SME continues to highlight workforce development programs across the country that provide manufacturing career paths for employees, while helping employers build talent pipelines indispensable.

An inspiring program is Rhodes State College Uniquely Abled Academy in Lima, Ohio. It is the first college in Ohio to partner with the Uniquely Abled Academy, founded in California by Ivan Rosenberg, designed to shift the paradigm of thinking from “disabled” to “uniquely able.” Rhodes State’s program moves highly functional autistic people into high-paying manufacturing jobs. This non-traditional program helps build the manufacturing workforce to meet Ohio’s workforce needs. Graduates qualify for several entry-level positions, including machine trainee, machinist apprentice, CNC operator, and CNC programmer. The program was delivered in part by Tooling U-SME.

The Small Business Education Foundation continues to strengthen its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by providing more programming opportunities to underrepresented students in communities across the country. The Foundation aims to dramatically increase the number of scholarships it awards each year to minorities and women pursuing careers in manufacturing or engineering. To this end, a new DEI Fellowship was established in 2021 with an endowment of $2 million from the Foundation Board; and an additional $2 million is raised for the program from private industry. The goal is to achieve racial and gender parity in the Foundation’s scholarship programs by 2025.

The Foundation’s DEI initiatives also include partnerships with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), as well as professional associations and student organizations that focus on women and minorities.

As part of a broader membership diversity strategy, SME has expanded its partnership with Women in Manufacturing (WiM) to host two virtual career fairs this year, with the first taking place on February 9. The two nonprofits have already partnered in different capacities over the past few years to promote a reciprocal membership opportunity and market each other’s programs and events.

In addition, the SME Member Council has established a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Task Force to advance initiatives that support and promote the growth of underrepresented groups within SME membership, especially women and minorities. One of the task force’s initiatives includes a pilot program to launch later this year with an HBCU and a Hispanic service institution that will focus on leadership development and open pathways and access for students to integrate. in the larger federation.

As an organization, SME will continue to prioritize the diversification of services to reach a wide audience. I encourage organizations to make a personal commitment to strengthening diversity within their sphere of influence and to embracing a culture of inclusion. The manufacturing community will improve and benefit from our collective efforts.

What is DEI

The term diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI for short, has caught on in corporate America — and around the world — in recent years, as competition for top talent intensifies.

But what exactly does DEI mean? Why is this important? And how do manufacturers implement their own success strategies?

In our new Inclusive Insights section, which will appear every two months in Manufacturing Engineering, we will highlight a variety of industry initiatives as well as upcoming challenges and opportunities.

Let’s start with a basic definition: DEI encompasses policies and practices designed to make people from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and ensure they are supported to perform to the best of their abilities. Here is what the three components mean:

  • Diversity refers to the presence of differences in the workplace, including ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, and socioeconomic background.
  • Equity is about ensuring that processes and programs are impartial, fair, and provide equal possible outcomes for everyone.
  • Inclusion is the practice of giving people a sense of belonging at work.

Together, they can deliver substantial and lasting benefits to employees and employers, and to society as a whole. The goal is to create a more equal playing field, while providing a diversity of experiences and opinions for a better overall team environment.

Although much progress has been made, there is still much to do and much to learn for all of us. The SME is no different. As the leading advocate for manufacturers, SME is committed to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion across the industry, as well as within our internal operations (see attached article ). We look forward to continuing our journey and sharing the successes of others in future issues.

—Senior Editor Steve Plumb

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