The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) is buying online training specialist Tooling U in a bid to establish itself as a comprehensive developer and provider of manufacturing training programs.

Pointing to a forecast for a worsening shortage of skilled workers, SME president Barbara Fossum said Tooling U will be part of an SME initiative “to offer comprehensive learning and workforce development solutions to help companies combat (an) increasing talent shortage, and to provide a much broader span of continuing education opportunities for member career growth."

SME is a professional society for manufacturing professionals active in a range of industrial sectors, promoting increased awareness of manufacturing engineering. Tooling U develops online training for manufacturing companies and educational institutions, with more than 400 web-based classes employed by over 1,200 organizations worldwide.

As of now, SME and Tooling U have established definitive purchase agreement, but it is expected to be final this month. The value of the transaction was not revealed.

At their announcement in Chicago at IMTS 2010, both Fossum and Tooling U co-founder Chad Schron emphasized that the online training platform will continue to operate “without interruption.”

SME promised to invest in additional online courses and “a more interactive interface” to support trainees at varying levels of expertise, from shop-floor workers to manufacturing engineers, as well as operations managers.

The association anticipates a portfolio of training offerings that includes its certification products, in-person training, and webinars, combined with Tooling U's online programs, and more than 400 courses, to create a global community with a comprehensive source of manufacturing knowledge.

"No other entity in manufacturing has the history, expertise and reach of SME," stated Schron. "During the last decade, we have built Tooling U into the number-one source of online training for the manufacturing industry. Now, with SME's vast and growing resources, we will have the ability to provide our customers and SME members with new and enhanced online education along with a full portfolio of work force development options, all in one place."

Fossum promised that SME will “leverage the expertise and wealth of knowledge among our members to accelerate the development of new learning programs and meet the changing needs of the marketplace," including high schools, community colleges, technical training schools, and universities, as well as practitioners and companies.