CIRAS to Lead Multistate Diversity Effort

A new program to attract under-represented minorities to technical and managerial roles in manufacturing is the focus of a $919,000 award received by CIRAS. CIRAS, in partnership with Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers in three other states, will create a structure for an internship program to build a pipeline of future employees for MEP centers and small- to medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs).

“The need to recruit top talent has become critical in many business sectors, including manufacturing,” said Mike O’Donnell, CIRAS associate director. “Large companies have the resources to improve diversity. But smaller companies are struggling, especially in technical and managerial talent, because they don’t know who to partner with or how to change their practices to attract and retain under-represented minorities.”

The program, which involves partner centers in Illinois, Kansas, and Ohio, gets underway this fall. Each center will recruit two candidates for internships next summer. O’Donnell said the ideal candidate will be an undergraduate student in engineering, business, agriculture, or a science field with an interest in learning more about manufacturing and careers in manufacturing. The centers will develop and leverage partnerships with professional societies for under-represented students as one means of attracting prospective interns. Participating students will work alongside manufacturing experts to assist SMMs with implementing change in their business.

“This program represents a chance for students to work with manufacturers and see what it takes to be successful,” O’Donnell said. “It’s also an opportunity to experience a manufacturing career without making a long-term commitment.”

The technical experience of the internship will be supplemented with professional-development activities, community-building events, and networking opportunities to ensure a well-rounded experience that will help interns build successful careers in manufacturing.

Future plans include expanding the program to 10 centers. CIRAS is the lead partner in the award, which was received through a competitive awards program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST–MEP).

For more information, contact Mike O’Donnell at or 515-509-4379.