Bright Minds College Experience Provides Exploration, Networking, Learning Opportunities

The Bright Minds College Experience at SOUTHTEC 2023 in Greenville, South Carolina on October 25 was a unique gathering of college students from Auburn University and Tuskegee University. It was a day of exploration, networking, and learning.

As the event - which is the first of its kind hosted by SME Membership - began, conversations buzzed with excitement as students shared their expectations for the event.
During the Java Talk by Robert 'Bob' Willig, the Executive Director & CEO of SME, he shared his “origin story” of his journey through high school, work in an auto assembly plant, college education as a mechanical engineer and his professional career path.

Based on his career journey, students received a realistic understanding of the manufacturing field and had the ability to ask questions. The students enjoyed the opportunity to interact with Bob, hearing some suggestions on how to know which company or even type of organization would be the best fit for them after graduation. He talked with them about working for small companies and the advantages offered in a setting where they might wear a lot of hats. He also outlined the advantages of working for larger organizations in terms of advancement, training, and the opportunities to try different roles within the company, should they choose to broaden their experience. He also discussed options that included academia and government, as well as the importance of connecting within the industry after graduation.   

Following Bob's talk, Sheronda Carr, vice president of Membership, Christian Jensen, director of Institutional Giving for the SME Education Foundation, and Toni Neary, director of Community Engagement and Workforce Innovation for Tooling U-SME, discussed student engagement and scholarship opportunities available through SME’s Education Foundation at The SME Education Foundation has been a leader in supporting the next generation of manufacturing and engineering talent. When students apply for one scholarship, they are automatically entered into over 60 scholarships. Jensen provided a practical perspective on the various programs and opportunities available, enabling students to see the industry's potential from a more grounded standpoint. Students learned about all the benefits SME has for college students to succeed in the industry.

The Digital Solutions Showcase was one of the day’s programming highlights. Students watched demonstrations of cutting-edge technology, including predictive milling, in-situ monitoring, and AI/machine learning. The Accupro® ST series particularly caught their attention as a practical solution for optimized milling performance.

The college experience included more than sitting and listening. There were opportunities for the students to network and explore the show floor and network with industry professionals in fields in which they are interested. It was a time for learning about the industry's latest advancements and establishing valuable connections.

The "Why Manufacturing?" panel discussion allowed students to hear from industry professionals and a human resources executive coach. The panel focused on what it is really like being in the industry and what opportunities and challenges exist. Many students stayed after the talk to continue the discussion with the panelists.   

A networking break in the SME Zone allowed the students to relax, enjoy refreshments, and connect with SME members, vendors, attendees, and SME employees.

The day concluded with student roundtable discussions where students had the chance to provide their thoughts and opinions on their education, SME, and manufacturing.

Attendees left with a more realistic view of the industry and a clearer vision of their future careers. The Bright Minds College Experience at SOUTHTEC 2023 provided them with valuable insights and connections while setting them on a practical path in manufacturing.
Blog SME Connect Blog 10/31/2023 4:27pm EDT