Upcoming event aims to expose young people to careers in technology and manufacturing

Macomb County has long been a manufacturing powerhouse. For close to a century, our region has designed and produced countless products, parts and materials for the auto industry and military – which makes continuing the steady flow of talent into our workforce a top issue for local leaders.

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One major component of producing this next generation workforce involves exposing young people to the variety of careers and opportunities available in the manufacturing and technology sectors. And the upcoming Careers in Manufacturing Expo aims to do just that. The free career event will be held on Thursday, Dec. 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Macomb Community College South Campus. It will feature a light dinner, an opportunity to interact with area employers and a panel discussion about educational pathways that lead to career success. The panel will include insight from interns all the way to CEOs, all of whom can provide perspective to the public.

“It’s really all about developing career awareness and technology awareness, particularly within the automotive field,” said Joe Petrosky, the dean of the Engineering and Advanced Technology at Macomb Community College. “That evening event has local employers that come in. Students and parents and families can interact with those employers, […] learn more about apprenticeships, learn more about internships (and) the programs available at the college.”

Companies participating in the event include:

  • Ford Motor Company
  • Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles
  • General Motors
  • Magna International (manufacturing)
  • Continental AG (manufacturing)
  • Comau (automation)
  • Siemens (automation)
  • American Axle (auto)
  • Kuka (automation)

All interested parents and students are welcome to attend the expo, where one lucky student attendee will be awarded the special door prize – a professional grade drone!

Again, the event is free, but registration is required here.


Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

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Manufacturing Day gives students behind-the-scenes access to local plants and factories

What do you think of when you imagine a manufacturing facility? Perhaps you picture a dirty, overcrowded setting with dim lighting and old machines. Alongside that you see workers doing dull, repetitive jobs. Well, what if I told you that’s not the case at all? That those ideas are manufacturing myths and scenes from the past? Would you believe me?

Because the reality is this: Most of today’s advanced manufacturers have bright, clean buildings. They have workers tasked with highly-skilled, interesting jobs. They are growing and making products essential to our everyday lives. All told, manufacturing is on the rise and companies are ready and willing to hire the next generation of talent.

But how do you dispel myths and long-held ideas while also inspiring this talent pool? One answer is the national celebration of Manufacturing Day, also known as MFG Day, an event that features high school students visiting area advanced manufacturing facilities to see the industry in action and meet people who make things. By giving young people this behind-the-scenes access, you can open their eyes to potential careers and opportunities that they may not have previously considered.

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Here in Macomb County, we’ve held a Manufacturing Day celebration for the last five years. Our most recent was this past Friday, October 5. In all, an estimated 2,400 students from 28 MISD schools attended 82 tours given by 72 host companies – our largest event yet. During individually organized visits, students got to experience everything from the design and production of anatomically correct prosthetic solutions to the creation of vehicles. For instance, a group of students from Adlai Stevenson and Warren Career Prep Center got inside access to FCA Automobile when they toured the U.S. Warren Truck Assembly Plant.

The day started with a welcome and introduction from FCA, Macomb County and MISD leadership. A question and answer session led by Plant Manager Andy Ragalyi followed. During this activity, students learned fun facts like what the most popular Ram color is (A: white) and how many trucks are produced at the plant everyday (A: 1023). They were then provided with safety equipment and led on to the plant floor, where they were carted to sections of the facility to see the line in action. Trucks in various stages of assembly were the main attraction. Some areas had trucks with only the body complete, others featured trucks in the testing stage. But the feature consistent throughout was the constant movement of FCA employees in and around the vehicles as they slowly moved down the line. These workers expertly attached parts, worked with robots and assisted with quality assurance – demonstrating how and why a complete Ram comes off the line at Warren Trucking every 53 seconds.

The hands-on portion of the tour took place in an area of the plant dedicated to work hardening, a term used for employee training. Here students participated in activities that would help them prepare for working on the line. For instance, in an area designated dexterity, students competed in a timed race to move wooden pegs from one end of a board to another. The exercise was both fun and educational in that it allowed students to see how workers train to use both of their hands on the plant floor.

The day wrapped with a presentation on the types of careers available at FCA, a helpful guide for students who were interested in pursuing a job in manufacturing after graduation. Which brings us back to the ultimate goal of Manufacturing Day – exposing young people to the interesting and well-paying careers that are currently available in the field. Through tours at FCA and at the 71 other host site companies, we accomplish that. And as previously mentioned, this behind-the-scenes access helps this generation understand that the manufacturing jobs of the past are not the manufacturing jobs of the present. There’s opportunity out there, we just have to help make the connection.

Macomb County’s Manufacturing Day is made possible through the support of an active planning committee and the generosity of host sites and sponsors. 2018 sponsors included:

All-In

  • Advancing Macomb
  • Dominion Technologies
  • FCA
  • Fori Automation
  • Futuramic Tool & Engineering
  • Proper Group International
  • PTI Engineered Plastics
  • Siemens
  • Workforce Intelligence Network

Big Supporter

  • AIM Computer Solutions
  • Baker Industries
  • Ford Next Generation Learning
  • GM – Warren Transmission
  • KUKA North America
  • Lanzen Fabricating
  • Macomb County Chamber
  • Michigan Works! Young Professionals
  • Paslin
  • RCO Engineering
  • Romeo Rim
  • Sterling Heights Regional Chamber
  • UHY Advisors

Contributor

  • American Society of Employers
  • Mitsubishi Chemical Performance Polymers

For more information, visit http://business.macombgov.org/Business-Events-ManufacturingDay. And to see more pictures from this year’s event, click here.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

 

Bolstered by loyal workforce, Möllertech celebrates 20 year anniversary in Shelby Township

Automotive suppliers from around the world choose to put down roots in the Motor City region because of our collective history, talented workforce and depth of knowledge and insights in manufacturing. Möllertech is no different. The German injection molding moeller_logo_Moeller_Techcompany was attracted to the area for those exact reasons and opened its Shelby Township facility in 1998, bringing more than 250 years of experience with it. A family-owned organization, Möllertech has plants all over the world and three in the United States that specialize in vehicle interiors. At the 110,000-square-foot Michigan facility, parts are made for General Motors and BMW by 75 individuals – an employee count that will likely increase due to new projects on the horizon. But this month, the focus at Möllertech has been the celebration of its 20 year anniversary here in Macomb County; a milestone recently recognized with an open house and BBQ.

I visited Möllertech during their anniversary festivities and was greeted with a jovial atmosphere generated by employees and their families enjoying food trucks, games and activities. There was even a dunk tank for those feeling adventurous. After indulging in a few slices of wood-fired pizza, I was led on an informative tour by a Möllertech supply chain manager, Chuck Gietzen.

The first thing I noticed while walking the floor was the plant’s impeccable organization and cleanliness, which of course, is intentional. Möllertech adheres to Kaizen, a Japanese management concept focused on continuous improvement through visual order and standardization. For management, following Kaizen also means building a culture where all employees are actively engaged in suggesting and implementing efficiencies. By doing this, the company ensures a creative atmosphere that prioritizes problem solving and producing the best product possible. A new Cadillac parked just outside the plant demonstrated the outputs of this work. With all four doors open, my tour guide could point out the various parts that the company produced for the car. Back panels, A pillars, B pillars, console side covers – anything plastic is something they likely touched.

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Seeing the product in person and the machines that made it certainly drove home the scale of this supplier. But perhaps the most impressive part of my tour was passing by the Möllertech seniority wall, a display near the entrance to the plant that features the photos and names of workers who have been with the company for years – sometimes 10, sometimes 15. I discussed this trend at length with Gietzen, a 19.5 year veteran of the organization. He was its second employee. And he’s not alone in employment longevity. That seniority wall has a number of names installed. So clearly there’s something about the company that resonates with these individuals, making it easy to stay in the job for a long period of time. From my tour and in learning about Möllertech, I presume that it’s because of two reasons.

First, there’s a culture of respect. According to Gietzen, the management treats employees like family. Which requires more than just hosting employee events and parties – Möllertech listens to its workers and consistently invests in on-the-job training. Management is also very engaged with the day-to-day activities, visiting the plant, walking the floor and monitoring operations. Steve Jordan, Möllertech’s North American president and CEO, is at the Shelby facility at least every six weeks. This type of involvement shows a deep commitment to the employees and to the work they do.

Second, the innovative techniques employed by Möllertech allows them to attract new clients and jobs. For instance, on the factory tour, I saw an outlined space that will soon hold machinery and staff assigned to work on parts for the Maybach, a popular luxury vehicle. Projects like this one are exciting for employees because they allow them to develop new skills and talents. With new work coming in regularly, the choice to stay on at Möllertech would be easy.

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At the conclusion of my tour, I shook hands with Gietzen and thanked him for his time. I then made a pit stop at the edible cookie dough food truck before heading back to the office, reflecting on a great day at a great company.

If this type of work environment is something you’re interested in, stay tuned to the Möllertech website. That aforementioned Maybach work means that the company will need close to 50 new employees at the Shelby facility. And if you’re able to get a foot in the door now, perhaps you’ll be up on that seniority wall for the plant’s next big anniversary.

**Möllertech is a client of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development (MCPED).  The business development group assists companies in many facets of expanding and growing a company including:

  • Support with accessing state and local incentives and financing options
  • Assistance with workforce recruitment, training and retention programs
  • Identifying available sites for expanding or relocating a business
  • Access to business counseling services
  • Market research and marketing
  • Workshops and networking opportunities

The economic development specialists for MCPED are focused on growing, retaining and attracting businesses to Macomb County. To learn what resources are available for your business, visit macombbusiness.com or email info@macombbusiness.com.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

SMT Automation provides a solution for workforce shortages

Finding a talented workforce is top of mind for every organization. But sometimes there are barriers to getting the right people in the right positions. Especially for industries that require specialized employees, like manufacturing.

pexels-photo-1216589One of the main issues for employers in that field is a massive shortage of skilled workers. This is a problem across the country, but here in Michigan, where manufacturing makes up 87 percent of the state’s GDP, it’s become very serious. According to recent reports, there are 80,000 jobs that cannot be filled because of the scarcity of trained workers. The effects of this shortage can be very negative for profits, and if not addressed, it could lead to businesses shuttering their facilities and moving elsewhere.

That’s where Macomb County-based SMT Automation comes in.  They offer specialized staffing solutions to meet the needs of manufacturers. These teams of contracted individuals will then provide on site design and engineering services, hardware selection, implementation of control systems, support for starting machinery and commissioning and advice in control systems – services that are certainly resonating with Michigan businesses.

Behind the business
The leaders behind this successful venture are husband and wife team Marco Santana and Elena Morales. They started SMT in 2017, several years after moving from Mexico for Elena’s job. Marco, a controls and automation engineer, heard over and over from Michigan manufacturers about their workforce shortages. Given his advanced degrees, experience and connections, he felt he could find a solution to the problem and after many discussions with Elena, they established their business.

Getting started was not always easy and it required round-the-clock commitment to the job. But the couple, who have been together for 15 years, persevered and manufacturers came calling. SMT now counts several industry leaders as clients. They love the services SMT provides, which are somewhat similar to those offered by a traditional staffing agency. But it’s also completely different. Marco and Elena run an international firm that identifies engineering and automation talent around the world. They then recruit, train and manage the process for getting these individuals to the United States. Once here in Michigan, SMT employs the foreign workers and contracts out their services. But rather than just place a temporary worker, SMT places an entire team on site at the client’s facility. This team is trained in localized processes and procedures to ensure expert handling of projects in a timely manner. At the end of a job, the SMT workers are transferred to whichever client is next on the list for services.

pexels-photo-544965So how might this work in a real world situation? Say that you are a local manufacturer that is installing a new machine in one of your facilities. You have limited capacity to get that piece of equipment up and running, so you contract with SMT to bring in a knowledgeable and trained team to handle the job. This team then works on site for a determined period of time to get the assigned project done. They manage all troubleshooting, programming, design and engineering – allowing you to continue to focus on your day-to-day activities. When the job is complete, the SMT team moves on. However, if their support is needed long-term, they can stay on board.

Why do all this? Well, as previously stated, there is a trained worker shortage in Michigan and manufacturers cannot wait for the local talent pipeline to recover. So they have to turn to different labor pools and looking internationally has become an important option. This makes contracting with SMT appealing as it reduces the risk for companies that want to employ foreign workers but are wary or unsure of the process. And all told, clients of SMT are thrilled with the results of their partnerships. Some clients even want to poach SMT talent.

Recruiting a talented workforce
With SMT talent in demand, it is imperative that Marco and Elena continue their efforts to find educated and trained individuals for their workforce. Currently, they are looking to double their employee count, which will require a change in their international business model. The couple now plan to shift from hiring foreign talent to hiring right here in Metro Detroit. They want to find people with the right degrees and the right experience. But they also want employees with a positive attitude. And for Marco and Elena, this might be the most important skill of them all. They need people who will go in and get the job done. People who are up for a challenge. People who will deliver on promises made to clients. This is what sets SMT apart and makes them a vital resource for manufacturers.

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On top of finding these skilled and good-natured workers, SMT also plans to grow its footprint in Macomb County. Current operations for the business are housed in Clinton Township, but Elena and Marco are looking to expand into a larger office in the near future. With this new space, the couple can work towards their ultimate goal – giving back to their community by giving young people more employment opportunities. They wholeheartedly believe in helping the next generation of manufacturing talent get that first foot in the door, because when that demographic finds meaningful work, they contribute to the well-being of our economy. This idea is certainly part of the solution to fixing the overall workforce shortage in manufacturing. Young people need to be given the chance at these skilled careers and they should be supported in their efforts in the industry.

SMT is not alone in this mission. Macomb County leaders are making big strides in this area as well by collaborating with partners to develop and support initiatives that expose the next generation to science and technology-related education and careers. This work includes:

  • The Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development partners with the Macomb Intermediate School District, along with an active planning committee and generous sponsors, to coordinate one of the nation’s largest celebrations of Manufacturing Day (MFG Day). Since 2014, more than 7,000 students have visited a nearby plant to see industry in action and learn about career possibilities.
  • Macomb Community College hosts AUTO Steam Days, a two-day hands-on opportunity for students to explore careers in automotive design, robotics, manufacturing and technology.
  • The Michigan Automotive & Defense Cyber Awareness Team (MADCAT) partners with academia and area U.S. Department of Defense assets to develop a career pathway for high school and college students in cybersecurity.

These efforts, combined with businesses like SMT, can perhaps put us on a pathway to solving the talent crisis in manufacturing. And furthermore, a mindset like Marco and Elena’s that prioritizes giving young people their first career opportunity, will hopefully ensure a positive economic future for the entire state.

For more information on SMT, visit their website here.

**SMT Automation is a client of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. Working with MCPED, they have access to services like assistance with marketing, financial analysis and planning, strategic planning, management and operations. To learn how our services can help your business grow, visit http://www.MacombBusiness.com or call 586-469-5285.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

STEAM camp prepares young students for future careers

Last week a unique summer camp took place at Macomb Community College focused on STEAM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering, art and math. The summer camp, funded through a grant from General Motors, was an immersive program specifically designed to engage middle school students from Macomb County. From college style lectures to touring real world laboratories, each day of the five-day camp had activities dedicated to one area of STEAM. For instance, on the science day, students learned a few chemistry magic tricks.

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“My favorite activity was the golden pennies,” said Emily Auchter. “They were so cool. First the pennies were cleaned with vinegar and water and then we put them in a zinc solution. Once they were silver, we took them and held them over the flames. They then turned gold.”

On the third day of camp, the students learned about art and engineering by designing and building model race cars. Ava Crnovrsanin was awarded the most aerodynamic car.  “My favorite activity was the edible cars,” she said. “Together, my partner and I made a car out of food. We then tested our cars by sending it down a ramp to see how fast it could run. Our car made it down the fastest.”

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Although each day was filled with activities, the camp also allowed the students to bond around their favorite subjects. “My favorite activity was Math Day,” said Shelby Lafferty. “I enjoyed it because I could hang out with my friends and learn at the same time.  They made math fun.”

Outside of simply providing a fun atmosphere, camps like the one held at Macomb Community College help prepare students for the future economy. It is estimated that 65 percent of today’s kindergarteners will have job titles that do not currently exist. And many of those roles will be related to STEAM. So it is imperative that young people have opportunities to explore and become educated in these fields.

Macomb County is making big strides in this area. We collaborate with partners to develop and support initiatives that expose students to STEAM career possibilities and point them to educational pathways that lead to meaningful employment. This work includes:

  • The Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development partners with the Macomb Intermediate School District, along with an active planning committee and generous sponsors, to coordinate one of the nation’s largest celebrations of Manufacturing Day (MFG Day). Since 2014, more than 7,000 students have visited a nearby plant to see industry in action and learn about career possibilities.
  • The Department has also partnered with Romeo Community Schools as they work towards becoming Michigan’s first Ford Next Generation Learning community. The newly established Academies of Romeo will enable students to choose a thematic course of study – such as engineering, health care or information technology – and learn in a relevant, hands-on environment. Students learn math, science, English and social studies within the theme they choose.
  • Macomb Community College hosts AUTO Steam Days, a two-day hands-on opportunity for students to explore careers in automotive design, robotics, manufacturing and technology.
  • The Michigan Automotive & Defense Cyber Awareness Team (MADCAT) partners with academia and area U.S. Department of Defense assets to develop a career pathway for high school and college students in cybersecurity.

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Those are just a few examples of the many programs and partnerships Macomb County is pursuing to fuel our talent pipeline and prepare the next generation for STEAM-related work opportunities. Through these efforts, we hope to ensure economic stability in our region for many years to come. But ultimately, our goal is to give our young people the tools they need to succeed and connect their passion with opportunity.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Students’ attitudes shift after experiencing manufacturing

How do you get students to pursue manufacturing careers? In most cases, it’s not so much up to you as them. Per a study conducted by The Manufacturing Institute, SkillsUSA and the Educational Research Center of America, 64 percent of students enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses say that their own interests and experiences are the most important factor in choosing a career path.

In light of that, let’s revise the question: How do you spark student interest in manufacturing careers? The simple answer is exposure: Showing them modern manufacturing in action and letting them find what that inspires them, whether it’s the technology, the creativity, the problem solving, the team attitude or the reassurance of good pay and benefits and high job security.

That’s where Manufacturing Day comes in. MFG Day is the perfect way to provide students early exposure to the many career opportunities offered by modern manufacturing. And that isn’t just talk — exit polling from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute in 2016 shows that MFG Day events make a real impact for students that participate. After attending MFG Day events:

  • 89 percent of students were more aware of jobs in their communities
  • 84 pecent were more convinced that manufacturing provides careers that are interesting and rewarding
  • 64 percent of students were more motivated to pursue careers in manufacturing
  • 71 percent were more likely to tell friends, family, parents or colleagues about manufacturing after attending an event

So, how do you get students to your MFG Day event to give them a chance to have a mind-opening experience that sparks their own interests? Use the tips in this blog post, “How to Get Students to Your MFG Day Event,” and do your part to inspire that next generation of modern manufacturers!

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A partner to help drive students to your event
To help increase student participation in your Manufacturing Day event,consider partnering with your local Dream It. Do It. network, which has locations across the United States. Dream It. Do It. is The National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Institute’s nationwide youth engagement network. And with 30+ state and regional partners, there is probably a Dream It. Do It. site near you.

Made up of manufacturing industry leaders, the Dream It. Do It. network works to change the perception of manufacturing and inspire next-generation workers to pursue manufacturing careers. Working together, each member organization provides resources and support to aid pro-manufacturing efforts in their respective territories and implements activities to meet local, regional, and statewide workforce needs.

Including local manufacturers, schools, and community-based organizations, among others, the Dream It. Do It. initiative offers its partners the opportunity to join a respected national platform to promote manufacturing as a top-tier career choice in the United States and engage and mobilize the next generation of manufacturing workers.

Fanning student interest sparked by plant tours
Manufacturing Day happens just once a year. So, what can manufacturers do year-round to continue their efforts to inspire the next generation of modern manufacturers?

One answer is to build on the success of MFG Day events by conducting regular open houses, an approach developed by the Waukesha County Manufacturing Alliance (WCMA) even before the advent of MFG Day in 2012. Back in 2010, WCMA partnered with Dream It. Do It. Wisconsin and the Manufacturing Institute to develop a program called Schools2Skills for high school students to tour manufacturing facilities in the county in an attempt to inspire them to pursue manufacturing careers and thereby address the critical shortage of talent local employers were facing.

The first Schools2Skills tour was completed by school administrators from all 12 school districts in Waukesha County and quickly took off. Since its launch, Schools2Skills has done almost 40 tours, taking more than 1,200 students to more than 40 manufacturers where they have been able to learn about the rewarding career paths offered in modern manufacturing.

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The tours conclude at regional community or technical colleges, where attendees can learn about education opportunities available for pursuing manufacturing careers, giving inspired students a perfect answer to inevitable questions like, “How do I get involved?” or “What’s next?”

To learn more about how the Schools2Skills program works, check out this account from the Manufacturing Institute.

This article was provided by the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute, organizers of Manufacturing Day.

Preparing high school students for careers in manufacturing

Macomb County businesses have joined forces to partner with the SME Education Foundation and the Michigan Manufacturers Association to make education opportunities available for students of Fraser High School. Dominion Technologies

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Announcement of the new partnership

Group, I.F. Metalworks, Fori Automation, General Motors, Oakley Industries and Superior Heat Treat LLC will collaborate through SME’s “Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education” (PRIME) initiative to develop and launch an advanced manufacturing education program at Fraser. The program will start in the 2018-19 academic year.

PRIME builds a collaborative network of students, educators and industry professionals to provide high school students with advanced manufacturing career pathways, inspiring and informing their interest and awareness in manufacturing. The national program provides students with practical experience, knowledge and skills using state-of-the-art technology and equipment, while allowing companies to support the career direction of youth through mentoring, internships and job shadowing.

“It started with one phone call: I wanted our schools to be a part of the opportunities the SME Education Foundation PRIME schools initiative provides,” said David M. Richards, PhD, superintendent of Fraser Public Schools. “The support we’ve received from our business community, county government and the state in this quest has been phenomenal; our students and community will benefit as a direct result.”

 

Alliances with local manufacturing associations play a major role in connecting business and education within the manufacturing community. The Fraser Public Schools collaboration is a result of the SME Education Foundation’s partnership with the Michigan Manufacturers Association, which began in 2016 to help boost Michigan’s already strong manufacturing presence and provide much-needed support to an industry seeking a large influx of prepared, qualified young people.

 

About the SME Education Foundation
The SME Education Foundation is committed to inspiring, preparing and supporting the next generation of manufacturing engineers and technologists. Since its creation by SME in 1979, the SME Education Foundation has provided grants, scholarships and awards through its partnerships with corporations, organizations, foundations and individual donors. Each year, the Foundation awards several hundred scholarships to students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering and technology disciplines closely related to manufacturing. The organization also administers scholarship awards on behalf of major corporations connected to manufacturing. Additionally, the Foundation’s PRIME initiative was created to provide high school students with a tailored advanced manufacturing/STEM education.

About the Michigan Manufacturers Association
For 115 years, the MMA has been serving Michigan manufacturers and related industries by providing effective representation at Michigan’s Capitol, timely educational seminars; quality and competitive-rate insurance programs, informational e-newsletters and a monthly magazine.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.