SME names new chief workforce development officer

SOUTHFIELD–SME, the professional association formerly known as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, announced the appointment of Jeannine Kunz to the newly created position of chief workforce development officer. She will report to Robert “Bob” Willig, executive director and CEO of SME.

In her new role, Kunz will work with Willig and SME’s board of directors to leverage the organization’s existing and extensive foundation of manufacturing workforce solutions. She will work on leading new partnerships, programs and service offerings, providing end-to-end workforce and training solutions for communities, companies and educational institutions. This increased investment enables SME to accelerate the development of the manufacturing pipeline with new, highly skilled workers, while also upskilling incumbent employees who encounter new, advanced technologies with the abilities they need to compete globally.

“Jeannine has an amazing track record over her more than 20 years with SME in workforce education and development,” said Willig. “We’re pleased to take this step in announcing our intent to further invest and grow SME’s efforts in workforce development, and we’re highly confident in Jeannine’s ability to lead this important initiative.”

The need for a skilled workforce is one of the most significant challenges to manufacturing’s future growth and prosperity, Willig said. Over its 90-year history, SME has addressed manufacturing’s business and technology challenges, and as evidenced by the appointment of Kunz to CWO, is increasing its focus, investment, and commitment toward workforce development.

“I greatly appreciate the opportunity and vote of confidence,” said Kunz, “and I am fortunate to have been supported along the way by a very dedicated team of professionals who believe in the strategic and important value a trained and educated workforce has on local and national competitiveness, economic prosperity and national security. We strongly believe the industry needs an accelerated, collaborative and innovative approach to meeting manufacturing’s workforce challenges. Our team plans to expand our partnerships with like-minded organizations to take bold action in making a difference for this industry.”

Kunz joined SME in 2000 and in 2010 led the acquisition of Tooling U, an online training organization, enhancing SME’s existing training and certification portfolio and increasing its ability to address the emerging national manufacturing skills gap. Since then, SME has worked with thousands of employers and more than thousands of schools, training hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

In addition to her most recent role as vice president of Tooling U-SME, Kunz served on the executive committee of America Makes and is a board member for the National Coalition of Career Development, Chair for the National Defense Industrial Association’s Manufacturing Workforce Committee and sits on Manufacturing USA’s Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing’s (ARM) Education & Workforce Advisory Committee. She also is a founding member of the Skilled Trades Coalition, a consortium of over 15 leaders from associations that collaborate to improve awareness and perceptions of skilled trades. In 2020, she joined the industry advisory committee for Clemson University’s THINKER graduate program and was elected to the Manufacturing Technology Deployment Group’s Board of Directors in 2022.

Crain’s Detroit Business recognized Kunz for her professional accomplishments, selecting her as a 2018 Notable Women in Manufacturing and 2019 Notable Women in Education Leadership.

An SME Member since 2008, Kunz earned a bachelor’s degree in business with a concentration in economics from Eastern Michigan University.

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