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Seeking mutual benefit with reciprocal membership pact

SME and Women in Manufacturing Association say agreement helps both fulfill core mission of developing industry workforce


Oct. 8, 2021
By William Ehart

Two professional societies say a reciprocal student-member agreement can boost membership for both and help the manufacturing industry attract the workers it needs.

SME (formerly the Society of Manufacturing Engineers) and the Women in Manufacturing Association announced last month that students could join both organizations for a flat $40 fee. Leaders of the groups told CEO Update that diversifying the talent pipeline is a key goal and a critical step in addressing the workforce needs of manufacturers.

“We have a skills gap, with as many as 2.5 million jobs unfilled in manufacturing in the U.S. alone,” said SME CEO Bob Willig.

“That means that as an industry, we need to be more inclusive. We can’t be self-limiting in terms of those we want to attract to be a part of our industry and feel included once they get here,” he said. “SME and Women in Manufacturing have similar missions.”

The 89-year-old, Detroit area SME has nearly 13,000 members. Cleveland-based WiM has 8,700.

“The relationship with SME has really been an opportunity for us to better and earlier introduce our association and manufacturing as a career pathway,” said President Allison Grealis, who founded WiM a decade ago. “We have around 60 student members; it’s a very small group. But our goal is to grow that through our marketing efforts as well as through this new relationship. The interest for us was reaching different segments of people in manufacturing.”

WiM also forged a reciprocal membership arrangement last year with the 4,000-member, Chicago-area Association for Manufacturing Excellence.

“The success of the program led us to pursue additional partnerships, such as the one with SME,” she said.

“We all have different strengths as organizations and also different focuses,” she said. “These other organizations aren’t specifically focused on women or diversity and that’s really our focus. So we can bring a new opportunity for services and benefits that can complement those benefits with the other organization.”

‘Common vision’

Willig said reciprocal membership agreements must be based on obvious mutual benefit.

“There are discussions, there are negotiations, but it’s more about, ‘Do you share a common vision of what your mission is?’ ... We were pretty much spot on” with WiM, Willig said. “Neither of us had to reach outside our core.”

WiM’s existing career-fair program complements SME’s resume-writing services, he said.

In a joint statement announcing the agreement, the groups cite an early example of its benefits is coming soon. On Nov. 3, SME will conduct a virtual resume review for all members, with special attention to students and early career professionals. On Dec. 2, WiM will hold a virtual career fair featuring access to hiring managers from 40 companies.

“If the benefit is only for the association and not for the members, I don’t think it’s going to be successful,” Willig said. “It has to be obvious enough that we don’t have to explain it to them.”