Q&A: Jeannine Kunz

Director of Marketing & Professional Development, Society of Manufacturing Engineers

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SME has recently acquired Tooling U. Could you give us a little background?

I’d be glad to. Tooling U has its roots in manufacturing since it was founded by Jergens, Inc., which is a family-owned company based in Cleveland, Ohio, that specializes in workholding, specialty fasteners, and lifting solutions. Some years ago they realized it was getting harder to find employees with the manufacturing skills they required, so they decided to begin offering some related information and training material on their website. It was mostly for their own customers in the beginning, but they soon realized there was a great need for this type of online education in the manufacturing industry, so they began offering the service to companies beyond their own customer base. It was a great success, to say the least, and Tooling U is now the leading online training provider focused on the unique needs of manufacturers.

Why did SME decide to acquire Tooling U?

When you consider our long history of providing seminars, webinars, training classes and videos, and publishing books, in addition to the various certification programs we offer, we’d been thinking for a long time about what a great complement to our existing capabilities an online education component would be. We spent a few years looking at it from many different angles, and we came to the conclusion that we had three options to choose from.

One would entail developing the entire program ourselves, including the curricula and the online platform itself, which would be very expensive, time consuming, and would take quite awhile to launch. The second option would be to partner with an existing online education organization, basically working in conjunction with them or sponsoring their efforts, but we were concerned about influencing the direction of content development. So we decided to go with our third option, which was to acquire an existing online education portal with a proven track record of providing the type of material we were interested in offering.

We were already very familiar with Tooling U, of course, and they met all of our requirements and were clearly the perfect complement to our existing educational outreach activities. And while Tooling U has historically addressed the fundamentals of various processes and technologies, SME definitely has plans in terms of the expansion of online offerings, eventually presenting more in-depth and far-ranging content to appeal to a wider audience seeking to build on their existing skills.

Who will benefit most from entering Tooling U’s program?

The list is pretty expansive, beginning with individuals who are interested in developing new skills or learning more about their current area of involvement. Another would be companies that want to provide their workforce with opportunities to learn more about the work they do or even develop new manufacturing skills as they prepare to enter new markets. We’ve also found many excellent opportunities to partner with high schools, vocational schools, community colleges, and universities, in which they can provide students with training they don’t currently offer themselves.

We’ve also developed “outcome assessments” that teachers can have their students take at the conclusion of a course to get a clear idea of how much information has been retained. Whoever is thinking of enrolling, however, the first step is to go online and take a skills assessment survey, which results in the creation of a learning plan tailored to address that person’s strengths and to identify possible shortcomings they need to address. This is a very powerful tool that helps an individual to identify exactly where they stand, in terms of their current skills, which will help them navigate their way through the system more efficiently and productively.

Companies are also using this tool in order to determine exactly where their workforce stands in terms of their job competency. And we’re finding new ways to harness this technology every day, such as requiring people who are attending an SME training session to take a particular course in advance at Tooling U so that everybody will be on the same page once the classroom session begins. So we see this as an opportunity to bolster our education outreach, which goes back nearly 80 years, by utilizing the power of the online environment.

MORE INFORMATION: Go to [www.sme.org] or [www.toolingu.com].