Education and Training

Closing the Skills Gap in Manufacturing is A Serious Challenge

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Read the latest CNBC column on closing the skills gap by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in this month’s Member Focus.

If manufacturing in the United States were its own country, it would rank as the ninth-largest economy in the world, with manufacturers contributing $2.09 trillion to the U.S. economy every year.

Every dollar spent in the manufacturing sector adds another $1.37 to the economy and each manufacturing job creates another 2.5 jobs in local goods and services.

Read more here.

Manufacturers Lead Charge to Close the Skills Gap

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President Obama signs the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act into law

President Obama signs the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act into law

President Obama put his signature to important legislation to address the skills gap – an issue that has plagued manufacturers in recent years, with 80 percent of them reporting a serious difficulty in finding skilled workers. Recently, a jobs expert took a close look at the skills gap and what manufacturers are facing.

The NAM and Manufacturing Institute have led the business community’s effort to ensure that employers have access to the 21st century workforce that they need to drive innovation, production and growth. Enacting the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act into law provides much needed streamlining of skills certification programs and the direction of necessary funding to ensure manufacturers have the workforce they need to succeed in a globally competitive environment.

The United States has long been the home of the most productive and successful workforce in the world. By coming together in a bipartisan manner (a sight too rarely seen in Washington these days), Congress and the President have taken an important step toward ensuring that the American workers’ reputation as the world’s best will continue.

Veterans are Strengthening the Manufacturing Workforce

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Veterans enter the civilian workforce every day.  Unfortunately, there are more veterans than open jobs—as a roughly 8 percent unemployment rate among veterans indicates.

After bravely serving our country, veterans deserve a hero’s welcome. They also deserve a good job, and manufacturers are stepping up to make that happen. Across the country, manufacturers are looking for ways to introduce veterans to manufacturing and get them to work.

Take Hoerbiger Corporation of America. When the Florida-based manufacturer saw a need for skilled machinists, it saw veterans as a natural fit.  As the Sun-Sentinel reports,

 [E]arlier this year the company developed a training program to fill the gap and began recruiting veterans.

They tend to exhibit “maturity, discipline, tenacity and an ability to get the job done,” said David Gonzalez, the company’s human resources manager. He recruited veterans in May at the Paychecks for Patriots job fair in Dania Beach.

The result: Seven of the 12 machinists put through the program are military veterans.

To help train these individuals, Hoerbiger turned to another manufacturer and a cutting-edge educational system.

Hoerbiger trained the group with the help of new machine simulation software by Machining Training Solutions, a Longwood, Fla., company operated by Al Stimac, president of the Manufacturers Association of Florida. Ten to 12 workers can be trained at a time with the interactive software.

“My whole concept was to train using the methods that students are used to, such as today an iPad or a computer. The learning curve is reduced drastically,” Stimac said.

There are similar stories across the country. The National Association of Manufacturers through the Manufacturing Institute is working with a number of manufacturers are part of the Get Skills to Work program.  This initiative matches the skills veterans received in the military to skills coveted by manufacturers. If veterans need to learn new skills, the Institute and its partners can help them earn those credentials through partnerships with community colleges and other educational institutions.

Manufacturers are helping veterans transition from the military in other ways as well. In addition to its efforts to recruit veterans to its workforce, Whirlpool Corporation recently became the official appliance sponsor of Homes for Our Troops, a non-profit initiative dedicated to building homes for severely injured veterans.

It’s the least manufacturers can do for the men and women who make great sacrifices to safeguard our freedom.

Brookings’ Panel Keeps Focus on Manufacturing Innovation

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“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” – Peter Drucker.

Common sense, really, but it’s surprising how many people find this a foreign and fearful concept. Washington, D.C. today had the good fortune to hear from two manufacturers who clearly embrace that principle.

An interesting thing happened at this morning’s panel at the Brookings Institute. In a discussion intended to focus on innovation and advanced manufacturing, the subject kept coming back to people. Two of the largest manufacturers in the U.S., Pfizer and Alcoa, both emphasized that their workers are critical to their success. Innovation begins with a spark, an idea, a necessity – and Pfizer and Alcoa are prime examples of companies that have invested heavily in the men and women behind those ideas. But both made it clear that in order to breathe life into the next great advancement, manufacturers need access to the skilled workers who will provide that spark.

“Innovation is the driver for advancement,” Pfizer’s President of Global Supply, Tony Maddaluna, noted (quite correctly). With billions invested in developing the next generation of life-saving and life-improving drugs, Pfizer knows exactly how important a skilled workforce is to that advancement. With 32 research centers around the world, Pfizer is consistently looking to find the best and brightest to take the next step forward. Mr. Maddaluna cited STEM education as a key component to increasing the pipeline of skilled workers. So is immigration reform, which he said will keep brain power in the United States.

Eric Roegner, Alcoa’s head of Investment Castings, Forgings, Extrusions, Oil & Gas and Defense businesses (a title that, as the moderator noted, seems to span the work of five people), described the workforce issues facing manufacturers in an articulate, kitchen-table fashion. Mr. Roegner commented that manufacturers are anchors of our communities. They invest in education, jobs, research and development. They’re just as committed to building their communities as they are to their products. A skilled workforce helps manufacturers do just that – and they take an idea from a simple thought all the way to the marketplace.

It’s nice to spend a morning listening to industry leaders who truly “get it.” They have the fundamental understanding that manufacturing will advance as far as their employees will take it. More STEM education is a major part of that answer. Comprehensive immigration reform will also be critical to ensuring that the next great developments happen in the U.S.

STEM Education Gets a Boost in Iowa

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STEM education is a priority for all manufacturers and the NAM has championed efforts to increase our innovative pipeline. Those efforts begin with leadership, and our immediate past Board Chair, Vermeer Corporation President and CEO Mary Andringa has long been a strong leader in the call for greater STEM education.

An outstanding advocate for manufacturing on all fronts, Mary carries a unique perspective on the need to increase STEM graduates due to her experience in advanced manufacturing. So it’s fitting that yesterday she was named the next Co-Chair of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, a position she’ll hold for the next two years.

After her appointment, Mary commented as to her belief that, “… our state has a great opportunity to make significant progress thanks to the collaborative approach educators in K-12, community colleges, independent colleges and universities have taken toward working with business and government to help Iowa be at the forefront of STEM education.”

Vermeer Corporation is no stranger to education and workforce training. It has been active in working with teachers and education administrative officials across Iowa to boost  STEM opportunities and graduates, along with improved techniques for the class room.

Here at the NAM we know how lucky the Governor’s Council is to be getting Mary as a co-chair. She has always been an outstanding flag bearer for manufacturing and the cause of STEM education is the better for her appointment.

STEM and Innovation Bound Together at Texas Instruments

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Like many students, I thought of Texas Instruments as a student’s best friend when trying to navigate the complexities of high level math and science courses – enabling us to take on rigorous work that likely would have gone over our heads without the technology they provided.

But as a student, I was unaware of TI’s depth of commitment to STEM education and developing new technologies. It’s a commitment with long tradition that remains unwavering to this day.

Yesterday, TI Chairman, President and CEO Rich Templeton delivered the keynote address at a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) event to discuss how critical university research is to America’s future.

The next generation of American innovation is intrinsically tied to the next generation of our workforce – and Mr. Templeton hit the nail on the head when saying, “”The leading companies were founded in the U.S. because many of the best minds in the world were attracted to our research universities and wanted to come here to work with the best and work on the best.”

The NAM is in total agreement with Mr. Templeton’s focus on the recent NAS study titled, “Research Universities and the Future of America.” He highlighted the importance of strengthening government support for science funding at the federal and state levels, strengthening university partnerships with business and building talent especially in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, through improved kindergarten through 12th-grade (K-12) education, stable funding for graduate research, and high-skilled immigration reform.

America innovation is only as good as the men and women working to develop a future we have yet to imagine – and leading companies like Texas Instruments are helping pave the way for a brighter tomorrow by pushing for STEM education today.

House STEM Bill Key Solution for Manufacturers’ Skills Gap

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Today, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduced the “Supplying Knowledge-Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM (SKILLS) Visas Act’’ , which is another step on immigration reform efforts in the House of Representatives.  For years, the NAM has maintained that the Immigration system is broken and manufacturers need access to highly-skilled foreign born talent.

The existing immigration system  is hindering research, development, growth and job creation. The SKILLS Visas Act would raise the number of H-1B visas to 155,000 per year and also increase green cards for advanced degree holders in the STEM fields. In addition, it includes a STEM fund to provide for additional opportunities in the domestic STEM pipeline -a priority of utmost importance to NAM members. The NAM appreciates the work of the House Judiciary Committee, particularly Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Representative Issa .

We look forward to working then them in the coming weeks on this as well as other important legislation to modernize our immigration system.

America Works Introduced in Senate

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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.

Journeyman Machinist a Guest of First Lady at Tonight’s Address

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Tonight Bradley Henning, a 23 year old journeyman machinist at NAM member Atlas Machine and Supply, Inc., was a guest of the First Lady at the State of the Union address. Mr. Henning has been training since high school for his job at Atlas and is a graduate of the company’s apprenticeship program. In July of last year he completed all of his necessary training and coursework to receive his journeyman’s card.

Bradley Henning of Atlas Machine and Supply, Inc.

Mr. Henning represents the thousands of students in apprentice programs and schools throughout the country gaining the necessary skills for long-term careers in today’s manufacturing. This isn’t your grandfather’s manufacturing, the jobs of today and tomorrow require advanced skills and job training.

Manufacturers throughout the country are struggling to find workers with the necessary skills for today’s jobs. Today, approximately 600,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled due to the skills gap.

In order for manufacturers to compete in the growing global marketplace the workforce must have the necessary skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We must continue to work to promote STEM education so students like Bradley can benefit from great careers in manufacturing and greatly enhance our nation’s competitiveness.


Companies Work to Train Veterans for New Careers

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Manufacturers throughout the country continue to struggle to find highly skilled workers to meet the needs of today’s manufacturing jobs. Companies and organizations such as the NAM’s affiliate, The Manufacturing Institute, are working on programs to help get workers the skills they need to succeed in advanced manufacturing.  

Last week SAP Americas launched a new program called Veterans to Work which will train and certify U.S. veterans on database and technology, analytics and enterprise mobility solutions. The company’s goal is to provide 1,000 veterans full scholarships over the next 12 months to help them launch new careers in IT.

“Our goal is not to find one-time jobs for veterans,” said Steve Lucas, executive vice president, Database & Technology, SAP. “We believe it is critical to provide deserving and qualified veterans the powerful technical tools they need to jump start a lifelong career in highly in-demand, innovative fields with significant potential for growth.”

This is great news for veterans looking to grow their skills for a career in a growing field. Earlier this fall several manufacturers teamed together with the Manufacturing Institute to form Get Skills to Work which is a collaborative program to join manufacturers and educators together to place veterans in long-term careers. It’s essential for our economy and the future of manufacturing that we continue to provide training to veterans and students to alleviate the shortage of skilled workers we currently face.