Jeannine Kunz Appointed as Chief Workforce Development Officer

The need for workforce education in the manufacturing sector is expanding and one local company is doing its part in growing this knowledge with its latest appointment to their c-suite. 

SME, a nonprofit association helping to support the manufacturing industry, has announced Jeannine Kunz as their Chief Workforce Development Officer. Headquartered in Southfield, SME has more than 90 years in business and is committed to advancing manufacturing and developing a skilled workforce. Now, the company will continue down the path with Kunz at the helm in the newly created position. 

Kunz will work alongside and report to SME’s Executive Director and CEO, Robert “Bob” Willig. In her new role, together with Willig, Kunz will collaborate with the Board of Directors to leverage the organization’s existing and extensive foundation of manufacturing workforce solutions. Working to lead new partnerships, programs and service offerings, providing end-to-end workforce and training solutions for communities, companies and educational institutions, Kunz brings expert knowledge and decades of experience to the position.

“Jeannine has an amazing track record over her more than 20 years with SME in workforce education and development,” says 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.”

An SME Member since 2008 and officially joining the team in 2020, Kunz earned a bachelor’s degree in business with a concentration in economics from Eastern Michigan University. In 2010, Kunz 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, the nonprofit has worked with thousands of employers and  a multitude 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. Kunz is also 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.

“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 is deeply knowledgeable about the challenges facing communities, educators and employers in addressing workforce issues. She shares her insights as a regular contributor, appearing over the years in CNBC news, IndustryWeek, Training Magazine, Chicago Tribune, NPR Marketplace, and many other media outlets. She also has testified before a Congressional House Subcommittee on the manufacturing workforce and apprenticeships and most recently testified for a House Committee focused on critical supply chain for the Department of Defense.

Because of her dedication to service in the manufacturing industry, 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 in Michigan.

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