SME’s THE BIG M Event to Address the Skills Gap in Manufacturing and Keeping America Competitive

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Panels and breakout sessions to discuss serious industry issue and solutions.

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The increases in today’s technology demand a workforce with an evolving skill set equipped to handle the complexities of advanced manufacturing.

American manufacturers are facing a serious problem: finding workers who have the skill sets required to perform necessary job functions.THE BIG M, produced by SME, is coming June 9-12 to Detroit's Cobo Center, and will discuss closing the skills gap in order for American manufacturers to stay competitive.

Thursday, June 12 at THE BIG M, several panels and breakout sessions will focus on obtaining and training a skilled and capable workforce, talent retention and coping with the skills gap.

"The increases in today’s technology demand a workforce with an evolving skill set equipped to handle the complexities of advanced manufacturing," said Jeannine Kunz, managing director of workforce and education for SME. Kunz will be a panelist on the “Critical Talent Strategies for Shaping Our Future” session at THE BIG M.

“Training and development of the workforce is instrumental in addressing the needs of manufacturers and keeping the U.S. competitive,” Kunz added.

In southeast Michigan, there is a significant gap between the jobs available and enough skilled workers to fill them.

“As Michigan’s economy continues to improve, more companies are facing a shortage of skilled workers, especially in the areas of engineering, skilled trades and computer programmers,” said Amy Cell, senior vice president of talent enhancement at the Michigan Economic Development Corp., and a panelist with Kunz. “Now, more than ever, our state’s future depends on a workforce with the necessary talents and training for the jobs of today and tomorrow. THE BIG M Conference will provide an opportunity to look for innovative ways to meet these talent needs.”

Demand is increasing, not only for front-end users, but also for the back-end staff, who are the people capable of maintaining the machinery essential to manufacturing; they are also in short supply.

One of THE BIG M’s sponsors, Kelly Services Inc., recognizes that accessibility is essential in helping fill these skilled positions and that this Great Lakes region is well equipped to support the manufacturing industry's demand.

"More than 1.8 million engineers are currently employed in the U.S., with nearly four percent working in southeastern Michigan,” said Tim McAward, vice president, Americas Engineering Product leader at Kelly Services Inc.

Research has also shown that manufacturers need a pool of highly qualified talent to complete on a global scale. The best way to ensure a steady supply of top-notch workers is through education.

One solution to preparing young people for careers in industry is creating youth programs that inspire them to pursue a future in technology. Promoting science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM education, is a statewide priority and a topic for discussion at THE BIG M.

The panel, “Critical Talent Strategies for Shaping Our Future,” is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on June 12; breakout sessions on workforce development include:

  • International Talent Retention in Michigan: A Pathway to National Competitiveness.
  • GEN-NOW – How Organizations can Understand the Different Generations in the Workplace.
  • Building a Performance-Based Workforce.

Other panelists discussing workforce and talent include:

  • Athena Trentin, Director, Global Talent Retention Initiative.
  • Greg Lelo, National Student Program Manager, U.S. Operations, The Dow Chemical Co.
  • Matt Morse, Partner, Employment & Family Based Immigrant Attorney, Fakhoury Law Group.
  • Jason S. Morga, VP, Americas Marketing Group, Kelly Services Inc.
  • Lance Jensen, VP, Office of Innovation, Kelly Services Inc.
  • John Hindman, Professional Services Manager, Tooling U-SME.
  • Edward Morris, Director, America Makes (National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute).
  • Dennis Kekas, Director, Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute.
  • William King, Director, Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute.
  • Alan Taub, Director, American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute.
  • Elana Broitman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Manufacturing & Industrial Base Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense.
  • Mark Johnson, Director, Advanced Manufacturing Office, U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Michael Molnar, Director, Advanced Manufacturing Program Office, National Institute of Standards & Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce.
  • LaNetra Tate, Advanced Manufacturing Strategic Principal Investigator, Space Technology Mission Directorate, NASA.

To learn more about THE BIG M, view full conference and exhibit details or register for any of the event’s offerings, visit Check out THE BIG M Webcast on “Solving the Skilled Workforce Challenges Manufacturers Face Today!” Click here to watch.

SME's THE BIG M initiative is years in the making ― designed to convene manufacturers around industry's most vital issues and leverage the power of industry leaders to collaborate and address them. This event demonstrates that manufacturing professionals and companies can shape the future by creating a strong path forward together, connecting people with technology and expertise, affirming the importance of manufacturing, speaking in a unified voice to policymakers and proving that manufacturing is a knowledge industry where creativity is sought and valued.

Highlights will include Innovation Factories featuring live presentations of the latest technologies; exhibit floor "tech talks" and Q&A sessions with industry experts who will provide the knowledge and insight manufacturers need most. Featured technologies include smart manufacturing, modeling and simulation, digital manufacturing, advanced materials and lightweighting, cybersecurity and more. THE BIG M is the umbrella pulling together several co-located events including: SME’s RAPID Conference & Exposition, the North American Manufacturing Research Conference, the ISA Cybersecurity Conference, the MMTC Proud to Manufacture in Michigan Conference, the Great Lakes Manufacturing Council Manufacturing Forum and the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership 2.0 National Meeting.

About THE BIG M Sponsorships

THE BIG M Event sponsors have invested time and resources to the conference and the future of the manufacturingindustry. Among the organizations that have contributed to conference are the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Autodesk, The Dow Chemical Co., Kelly Services Inc., GE and Dell Inc.

About SME

SME connects all those who are passionate about making things that improve our world. As a nonprofit organization, SME has served practitioners, companies, educators, government and communities across the manufacturing spectrum for more than 80 years. Through its strategic areas of events, media, membership, training and development, and the SME Education Foundation, SME is uniquely dedicated to advancing manufacturing by addressing both knowledge and skill needs for industry. Follow @sme_mfg on Twitter or

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