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Jeannine Kunz and Deb Volzer with SME
2nd November 2023 • The Industrial Talk Podcast with Scott MacKenzie • The Industrial Talk Podcast with Scott MacKenzie
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Industrial Talk is onsite at FABTECH 23 and talking to Jeannine Kunz and Deb Volzer, Workforce Development Team at SME about "Workforce solutions that inspire the next generation of industrial professionals".  Here are some of the key takeaways from our conversation:
  • Securing operational technology with Palo Alto Networks. 0:00
    • Palo Alto Networks offers zero trust security for operational technology, simplifying management and providing comprehensive visibility and protection.
  • Workforce development in manufacturing with SME leaders. 1:15
    • Scott MacKenzie welcomes listeners to the industrial talk podcast and thanks them for their support, while also highlighting the importance of the conference he is attending in Chicago, Illinois.
    • Scott is inspired by the passion and innovation of the conference attendees, who are changing the world with their work in various industries.
    • Jeannine Kunz, Chief Workforce Development Officer at SME, has been with the nonprofit for 23 years and has led education and training areas.
    • Deb Volzer, a new member of the SME team, is excited to bring the organization's expertise to higher education and leverage partnerships to change manufacturing.
  • Inspiring youth for manufacturing careers. 6:06
    • Jeannine highlights the importance of inspiring youth to join the manufacturing industry, citing a lack of awareness and understanding of its potential.
    • Deb emphasizes the need to enlighten and inspire youth to recognize manufacturing as the backbone of the economy and a viable career path.
    • Deb outlines a goal to throughput 1000 net new individuals per campus per year for 3 years, resulting in 75,000 trained and skilled individuals in manufacturing.
    • Industry partners like Jeannine emphasize the importance of their involvement in communicating needs to schools, providing work-based learning opportunities, and hiring graduates to support the education system and meet workforce demands.
  • Workforce development for manufacturing industry. 11:17
    • Deb: Aligning education with industry needs, closing skill gaps, and building open lines of communication between educators and employers.
    • Jeannine: Helping educators understand employer needs, adjusting to shorter timelines, and creating on and off ramps for learning and working to get people into jobs faster.
    • Scott MacKenzie emphasizes the importance of innovative and creative approaches to address the workforce pipeline challenge in manufacturing, particularly in dislocated workers and adult learners.
    • Deb highlights the need to understand the local market and community needs, and to develop strategic plans for each community college to address sector strategies and bring in new skills.
  • Workforce development in the manufacturing industry. 16:27
    • Collaboration is key to success in the manufacturing industry, with a focus on leveraging the strengths of various organizations and stakeholders to achieve a shared vision.
Finally, get your exclusive free access to the Industrial Academy and a series on “Why You Need To Podcast” for Greater Success in 2023. All links designed for keeping you current in this rapidly changing Industrial Market. Learn! Grow! Enjoy!


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Welcome to the industrial talk podcast with Scott Mackenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting-edge industry focused innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So read on your hard hat, grab your work boots, and let's go Alright, once


again, thank you very much for joining the industrial talk. And thank you for your continued support of a platform that celebrates industry professionals all around the world because you are bold, yes. Brave, you dare greatly you innovate. You solve problems. Yes, you out there on the camera, you solve problems and you make the world a better place. That's why we celebrate you on this podcast. We are also if you can tell by the little bit of noise in the background. We're broadcasting on site FABTECH is the location or the event we are in Chicago, Illinois. And I highly recommend that you place please place this on your to do list or your conference list for next year. And it's going to be in Orlando, but but I have a if you're in Mexico, it's going to be in Monterey. Just Just FYI. If you're in Canada, it's going to be in Toronto, too. But then you can always come down to Orlando. So there you go. We have two in the hot seat two in the hot seat. Jeannine Kunz and Dr. Deb Volzer. I hope I said that right. Holzer got it. SME is the the organization. And I'm telling you, this is a paper and pencil. This is inspiring. I'm going to be inspired. You're going to be inspired. So let's get cracking. So anything like a gut? Yes. Thank you very much. You guys having a good conference?


We're having an amazing conference. And I love the meeting. Bold people mean, people are changing the world. I've got a better introduction. This is amazing. No,


come on.


I'm fired up.


Yes, yes. Now deliver. No pressure. Yeah, I gotta tell you that the conference itself, I am never, ever. I'm always surprised. And the surprise is always something that's inspiring. And meaning is that you see the economy out there, right. And everybody's like, yeah, we produce this widget. And we're passionate about this. So this this little widget here, but I were just so passionate because it changes the world. Right? I don't know about you, but I'm always inspired by the the energy that exists out there. All right. Before we get into that conversation, Jeannine, for the listeners out there. Give us a little background on who you are,


sir. My name is Jeannine Kunz and I'm the Chief Workforce Development Officer at SME. I've been with SME for over 23 years Shut the front door. It is Shut the front door and too much too soon. So in doing that, I've had the opportunity to lead our education or training our workforce areas of SME, which is a nonprofit, to celebrate our 90th year last year.


And we were looking at some old photos of past conference shows various ways.


Not a lot of women still not enough but there was almost none. And that's a big part. Right. So, you talked about being inspired. I feel really privileged that I get the opportunity to do this for us in any industry.


All right, Doc. How about that? All right, you just swing like right into the dock. I just had to say Doc


well I'm Doc Deb Volzer are and I'm excited to be here. My history actually is in higher education and I was fortunate enough to meet Jeanine about four years ago, and really was inspired by the work that SME does. And when she had an opportunity for me to join the team, I absolutely jumped right on and have been with SME for about a year. And we're really being Trailblazers out there to take all the expertise of that 90 year old nonprofit and bring it to the higher ed and leverage partnerships with them to change manufacturing.


So let's let's dive into that. Outside of the fact that I, I envy your position just because you get to soak up all of this great stuff that's like never, probably never gets boring.


No, absolutely. I think what you just said, though, if I could, yes, please. You know, I would say it's interesting, having come into sme 23 years ago,


I know you started when you were about five,


just a little. Yes. But I knew manufacturing, I thought I knew. And I have to say fell and you might not be I fell in love with the industry. I think it's the coolest industry. It is the most underrepresented. It's a hidden industry. And you said do I find it? You know, challenging or interesting everyday? Absolutely. I mean, you can't walk around the show and not know, totally geek out, even if you're not a technology person. And it's really a privilege to be able to be part of SME who consistently gets to kind of evolve along with the industry and figure out how to better serve it. So it is it's a it's a challenging, interesting and very rewarding pathway for LCB individually. And so I think I'm so passionate about getting people into this industry, because not everyone has to also be a manufacturer, they could be at marketing or human resources, and still support an industry that's so important to our economy.


Okay, we wrap it up right there. And because that says, literally. So one of the challenges that I see, and we're going to talk about this, because SME hasn't has a program that addresses this challenge. And the challenge is, how do you inspire youth and say, Hey, come on in. It's the water's fine. And it's exciting. And there's a lot of lot of opportunity. How do we start that journey?


Yeah, I'll turn to my colleague, Deb, if you'd like to take that. I think it happened. Yeah, she's really been very innovative and joining our group and spearheading a program that I think answers your question.


ars. And we wanted throughput:


Let's go through the math again, real quick. So we have 25 community colleges across the United States. And what is the goal, again,


ave a challenge to throughput:


Okay, so now the workforce is being developed in, you know, collaborating with the community colleges and whatever. And then being able to do that. What does the industry what does the manufacturing industry, they got to support this? They got to be all on board. So tell us a little bit about that.


Yeah, well, absolutely. Because in the end, this is what we do. A lot of business. Oh, there we go. Right. And certainly we know our manufacturers are in need of those individuals, so that we know the demand is there. But Tyrion says, what can they do to be part of this and, you know, contribute what is their role, and it's a multifaceted role in that regards. One is stepping up and communicating the needs to those schools, sometimes, our employers don't always think about the school system as part of their supply chain, they might think of their supply chain as components and parts coming together, and they knew their assembly. But the people aspect is one of the most critical supply chains that they can manage out of their entire operation. And so that requires them to step into that supplier, which is, in this case, the community college, university, a high school and articulate just like they would with other parts, the specifications for what they need. Right. So giving that input into our education system is a critical part and an important role, as well as work based learning opportunities, co ops, internships, opening up their walls, right is another important part, and then certainly hiring them, right, that's an important part. So there's many, those are just a couple.


And I would add to that, and retain them once they're there. Yes, we do the work on the front end, and we make sure that we have aligned the right kind of skills needed for those positions that they're hiring for. But then what's the next step industry continues to innovate? So how do we then make sure that we're closing that loop back and saying, what additional upskilling and rescaling do we need to do for those individuals we just placed into those careers? And how do we then get them back to the right education provider to supply that next skill and talent?


Are you working with manufacturers in those in the surrounding areas where those community colleges are located and saying, Hey, we got the college. And then we need to understand what you need, and then be able to have that collaborative conversation saying, no, no, no, don't do that. We don't need that we need this. Is that happening?


Absolutely. So as SME steps in from that national kind of industry knowledge, we know, we have to act locally. And so we will bring that expertise of what we know, nationally down to that local level. And our community colleges do a good job of reaching out to their industry partners. But we think we can develop even better open lines of communication, building out those opportunities for as Jenny said, for them to identify what are those skills gaps? What are the needs that they have, and then make sure that we have that alignment back to the programming delivered in the timeframe, the modality and duration that they need to build those jobs?


I think that's an interesting point, because I touched on you asked about what can manufacturers do, and I think not only the skills, but I thought that said was important too, which is really helping our educators understand that timeline, sometimes what we used to think was a degree program, and students right a student going through, that's not always the timeframe that will work for the employer side of things. So that understanding of not just the specifications for the skills, but the timing, and how universities, colleges and high schools can adjust to that to think a little bit sometimes more short term, get them in a job, the on and off ramps of learning and working, learning and working, educating and working right that that on an off ramp allows people to sometimes get to work faster than they would have some of the old traditional ways.


I just think it's vitally important to do that. Given what's taking place out on the floor here in the three venues, a small city out here of these industries. What is obvious is that there's this velocity that exists. And so I think that whole work, educate work, educate is vital, because it's happening fast. And if you think that you're going to just sit there and just say, oh, okay, I'm gonna educate, educate, educate, that's that becomes stale given the speed at which this innovation is going.


Right. Well, and, and even our workforce pipeline challenge this manufacturing, imperative. We've talked a lot about you, but it's dislocated workers. It's adult Yeah, adult learners that are maybe looking at a second career. Maybe they, you know, stay at home mom, and now their children are, you know, school age or, you know, like the home and they want to get back to work. Or if they are having kids at home, right. Again, scheduling might be unique and what they're able to do in terms of getting those skills to get a job. So again, you have to really think very innovatively and creatively and those different audiences and their needs, which is what you've kind of touched on. It's not all about the that timeline or the skills that how that's delivered to individuals as well?


So if our if our objective is:


Absolutely. And you know, when, while we have that national imperative to throughput, that number, we have to, again, act locally. So we have to understand what are the needs of that community, we'll be working with that community to do landscape study to understand what are the jobs, what are the jobs that are trending, what new, what new economic development is going on, within their community within their state, so that we can start to address those needs. So that's one is really understanding what the market is. And then to really understanding, you know, the throughput that we need to have and how we count those. So you've got that awareness all the way from K 12. All the way through bringing in somebody for a second career, you know, we'll manage that locally with the community college. So each community college will have their own strategic plan, where are they now, with sector strategies? Where are they strong? Where are they weak? And then how do we help bring in and bolster up those sector strategies?


You're, what comes to me in full stereo is the necessity to really collaborate, you can't, you cannot just say, hey, community college, go out and do that. Now you need to have that ability to be able to say, hey, manufacturing base in this area, we need to be able to do this, you need to, you need to be on board, you need to be able to commit to this in a big way. Right. And then also, your organization needs to do its part. It's truly a dynamic collaboration of everybody driven by that vision of understanding and really wanting to, we've got to, we've got to do this.


Well, and I love what you just said tonight. It's like unprecedented collaboration, right of coming together. And some people will sometimes ask me, what do you see the difference from 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, the one thing I can give this industry is there's a lot more attention on coming together, aligning, and doing what you just said about collaborating? Because everyone's there's lots of good work out there. But how do you harness it together, leverage the strengths, SME strength is different than the college strength or the main infection Association that's local, they're doing its work by the state, the manufacturer themselves, and when you put that together, and really, it's optimizing that workforce system, to ultimately, as you said, kind of have a shared vision goal. And get us there. As a as a collective group.


I know that you're busy, and I can see that somebody said, Hey, you gotta get going. And I'm not. I'm not here with you all. I want that, because you're inspiring me, but we're gonna have to wrap it up, unfortunately. How do people get how to how do they start this journey with you SME?


Well, our website is That one's easy. But if you're really wanting to get a hold of somebody directly, it would be my colleague, Deb Volzer,


here's your cell phone number. And here's your email. Now, don't worry about that. But your email address if that



I love what you guys are doing. Well done. You guys are absolutely spectacular. I love the vision. It is necessary. Let's inspire the youth. Love it. Yeah. All right, listen, we're gonna wrap it up on the other side, we're going to have all the contact information for these two wonderful professionals out on industrial So fear not, you can get a hold of them. Let's inspire let's do that. Let's, let's get the youth involved. This is important stuff. So thank you very much. We will be right back. You're listening to the industrial talk Podcast Network.


All right, that's Deb and Jeannine. The organization is SME and they're hitting on all cylinders. It's all about workforce development. What can we do in the world of industry to be able to inspire the next generation of leaders, the next generation of manufacturing industry professionals, and it comes through workforce development. There is just a ton of opportunity and information out there to educate one be and industrial talk. As I've said a number of times we this platform He is dedicated to education, dedicated to collaborating, and dedicated to innovating so that you can succeed in whatever profession you're in. We talk to all of the great individuals and companies support go out to industrial talk, be a part of the ecosystem. You will not be disappointed. All right, be bold, be brave. They're greatly hanging out with Deb and Jeannine, change the world. We're gonna have another great conversation coming from FABTECH shortly. So stay tuned.