Today, Senators Hagan (D-NC) and Heller (R-NV), with additional support from Senator Donnelly (D-IN), introduced the AMERICA Works Act, which will help in addressing the severe skills gap facing US manufacturers. Recent data has shown that approximately 600,000 jobs may be going unfilled due to the lack of a skilled workforce, hindering economic growth and innovation in the U.S. The America Works Act begins to address this problem by focusing existing federal training dollars towards nationally-portable, industry recognized certifications within the Workforce Investment Act, Perkins and TAA. Industry-based certifications let potential workers know exactly what skills are in demand in the private sector, thus using these programs more efficiently.

Today’s modern manufacturing requires a skills level more advanced than in previous generations. Sandy Westlund-Deenihan, CEO of Quality Float Works, an NAM member company, uses industry-recognized certifications to ensure she is hiring the right person.   “Our manufacturing process is not what it was 25 years ago, it requires more advanced skills to deliver a high-quality product.  Hiring someone with a nationally-portable, industry recognized certification allows my company to be secure in the knowledge that we are hiring someone with the skills necessary to maintain that level of quality.”

The Senators should be commended for their leadership on an issue of utmost importance to manufacturers. Currently, federal training programs can be overly-bureaucratic and often frustrating to employers. Setting a clear path for the most valuable training helps employers know they are hiring the right person, helps potential employees know exactly what skills are necessary for success, and it makes more efficient use of existing Federal resources. The NAM is very excited to support this important piece of legislation.

Christine Scullion is director of human resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers.

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