Tag: skills gap

Marlin Steel Moves Forward to Close the Skills Gap

“These is my team, I’m dedicated to their success. We’re all in this together.…  We’re doing our part in Baltimore, we’re doing our part in Maryland. The American manufacturing renaissance is happening, and we’re an example of it.” ~ Drew Greenblatt, President of Marlin Steel and Executive Committee Member of the NAM.

Marlin Steel, a Baltimore based manufacturer of wire baskets and precision metal work has been honored by the Hitachi Foundation for their transformative business practices. Across the United States, manufacturers are struggling to find the skilled workers they need to compete – Marlin Steel has developed a “skills matrix” that has worked wonders for the company and its employees. Greenblatt has invested in his employees and it has paid off in spades. The program  includes: Incentivizing employees by tying training to pay increases and promotions; Emphasizing cross-training, so that employees fit in a flexible production system, allowing them to respond quickly and efficiently to changing customer demands; and Creating a career ladder that boosts retention of high-quality employees.

The Hitachi Foundation, along with the Precision Metalforming Association has produced an outstanding video that tells the story of Marlin Steel and its workers. They’re closing the skills gap through innovation and investing in themselves. It’s well worth watching – more than once in my opinion.

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Empire State Survey: Manufacturing Continues to Stall in the New York Fed District

The New York Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity improved somewhat in December, but it still remained stalled overall. The Empire State Manufacturing Survey’s composite index increased from a slight contraction (-2.2) in November to a slight expansion (1.0) in November. Indeed, overall activity had generally decelerated over the past few months, with the main index down from its recent peak of 9.5 in July.

New orders contracted for the second straight month, with one-quarter of the respondents saying that their sales declined in December. Just over half reported that their new orders were unchanged for the month. Likewise, the average workweek shortened further, with the index down from -5.3 to -10.8. Hiring was unchanged at zero. Overall, 73.5 percent of those completing the survey said that their employment levels had not changed in December.

On the positive side, shipments activity improved, up from -0.5 to 7.7. The percentage of survey-takers with increasing shipments rose from 24.8 percent to 33.4 percent.

Despite the poor current manufacturing figures, business leaders continue to be mostly positive about the next six months, albeit with some easing in sentiment in December. The forward-looking composite index decreased from 37.5 to 35.7. The expected data on new orders, shipments, hiring, and capital spending all declined for the month, but overall, they suggest cautious optimism for the new year. For instance, over 40 percent of respondents anticipate higher sales in the next six months, with only 13.9 percent forecasting them lower.

Hiring is predicted to grow modestly, with 24.1 percent of respondents planning to add to their workforce. Still, over 60 percent plan to make no changes to their employment levels over the next six months. For those who are looking for talent, finding qualified workers appears to be “increasingly difficult.” In a series of special questions, the inability to find qualified workers was cited by 70.4 percent of respondents as a major problem, making it second only to employee benefit costs (85.2 percent). Other top challenges included taxes (66.7 percent), government regulation (61.7 percent), and weak sales (40.7 percent).

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

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Kansas City Fed: Manufacturing Activity Grew in September, But at a Slower Pace

The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank said that the pace of growth in manufacturing activity slowed in September. The composite index of general business activity declined from 8 in August to 2 in September. The good news is that the index has reflected expansion – albeit a very modest one – in four of the past five months (May to September), with contraction in the seven months prior to that (October to April). As such, there continues to be progress for manufacturers in the district in terms of new orders and production, but these improvements are far from robust.

Much of the data in September reflected a pullback from August’s measures. For instance, the index for new orders dropped from 15 to 8. Data for shipments and production were similar. One factor that hurt the sales figure was a decline in exports growth, with the new export orders index down from 4 to -6.  On the hiring front, employment was unchanged in September (down from 4 to zero), suggesting that firms continue to be hesitant to bring on new workers.

With that said, the sample comments show the paradox in hiring that we hear from many of our manufacturing members. While hiring growth remains slow, those businesses that are adding new employees note challenges with attracting and retaining workers (e.g., the skills gap). Several respondents made comments along those lines, including the following:

  • “General labor is very difficult to find in order to fill our manufacturing positions. Educated workers are even harder to find.”
  • “… we are having to train people that come to us with no experience or skill.”
  • “Have difficulty in hiring engineers and accountants.”
  • “Our industry has lost labor force to the oil and gas industry, which is not really paying more hourly but is giving a lot more overtime.”

Other commenters echoed frustrations with the slow pace of growth. For instance, one individual said, “We keep hearing the economy is getting better, but we have not seen an improvement.” Similarly, another manufacturer labeled their sales as “flat” with “some upward price pressure on our raw materials.”

Despite these comments, the forward-looking questions continue to suggest cautious optimism for the next six months. The expectation composite index rose for the second month in a row, up from 7 in July to 9 in August to 18 in September. Numbers for new orders, production, shipments, employment, and capital spending were all higher. Nonetheless, the average employee workweek was expected to increase only marginally (up from 1 to 3), indicated some tentativeness moving ahead. Pricing pressures are expected to pick up, as well.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.


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Preparing Workers for America’s New Manufacturing

Manufacturing in the United States is being transformed by new technology that has made our workers the most productive in the world. The pace of change is constant and presents significant challenges. Even in today’s struggling economy, 600,000 manufacturing  jobs  are unfilled because employers can’t find people with the right skills.

Jennifer McNelly, president of The Manufacturing Institute, was a featured speaker on how to close the skills gap and train a 21st century workforce at the Washington Post Live’s “America’s New Manufacturing” event today sponsored by NAM member company Siemens.

McNelly joined an array of top experts who are actively engaged in the transformation of manufacturing in America including Siemens Corporation President and CEO Eric Spiegel; Former Assistant to the President for Manufacturing Policy Ron Bloom; Mayor Anthony Foxx of Charlotte, NC; Export-Import Bank Chairman and President Fred Hochberg; and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

McNelly spoke about the Manufacturing Institute’s leading initiatives to help close the skills gap, including its Manufacturing Skills Certification System of industry-based, portable and stackable credentials that validates the skills of incoming workers. She also spoke about the great work the Institute is doing with GE, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Alcoa and other partners to train returning military veterans for jobs in advanced manufacturing.

All the speakers agreed that with the right policies in place, this next era of manufacturing is an opportunity to secure America’s economic future.

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Workforce Development a Key Positive in Budget

There are many flaws with the President’s budget, but on a positive note is the commitment to career and technical education. Not everyone needs to attain a four-year degree to have a successful career. Obtaining a nationally-portable, industry-recognized post-secondary credential will allow for potential workers to know they are being trained in the skills that employers need today. The President’s budget specifically addresses reforming career and technical education to “better align program with the needs of employers…to ensure that graduates are poised to succeed.” This is a philosophically important point that is of utmost importance to manufacturers. Manufacturers need a strong technical workforce and we are pleased that the administration values this goal.

The budget also asks for $8 million for a Community College fund to support partnerships with business. Manufacturers are already on the ground across the country looking to align community college curriculum to industry-recognized credentials. So, while we appreciate this effort, we are also concerned that there is not more of an emphasis on making existing workforce training programs more efficient by eliminating the bureaucracy and streamlining existing programs, such as the Workforce Investment Act. Our goals are the same but in some cases our process diverges. We look forward to working with the administration on training initiatives that focus on jobs and skills in-demand today as well as training the workforce for the future.

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NAM Joins Sen. Donnelly and Microsoft to Talk Skills Gap

The National Press Club in Washington, DC. - a panel on the workforce skills gap in STEM careers and education. Bud Cramer (at podium), panelists (l-r) Aric Newhouse, of the NAM, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, and Fred Humphries, Microsoft.

Today, NAM Senior VP for Policy and Government Relations, Aric Newhouse, took part in a panel discussion on, “Strengthening the American workforce: Addressing the skills gap,” with Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Fred Humphries, Microsoft Vice President of US Government Affairs. Hosted by Center Forward, a non-partisan organization, the event focused on the need to close the skills gap in the U.S. by enacting legislation like the America Works Act. The bill, introduced by Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), would modify existing federal job training programs to more effectively prepare American workers and to help manufacturers remain competitive in the global marketplace.  You can check out video of the event here.

Mr. Newhouse told the audience that “manufacturers need a skilled workforce to compete in the 21st century economy. The ongoing skills gap that has left approximately 600,000 manufacturing jobs unfilled across the country directly undercuts America’s competitiveness. Policy solutions like the America Works Act give employers the confidence that the workers they hire will have the skills that fit today’s technologically advanced manufacturing.  The NAM is committed to continuing its partnerships with policymakers, manufacturers, and educational institutions to deliver the workforce that will help create a manufacturing resurgence in the U.S.”

The NAM-Manufacturing Institute partnership was mentioned often, particularly the Institute’s efforts on the ground with educational groups and their initiatives like “Dream it Do It.” Mr. Newhouse added that the backbone of innovation, and the backbone of growth in manufacturing comes from the employees who make up its workforce.”

Manufacturers consistently list the skills gap as one of the most pressing issues they face and the NAM is working with policymakers to solve the problem. In doing so, we will find a solution that addresses the skills shortage in the near-term and sets the U.S. up for long-term growth.

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Portable Skills Certification Bill Introduced in House

Congressman Lou Barletta (R-PA) and Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL) introduced H.R. 497, the America Works Act this morning.  This a vital piece of bipartisan legislation that makes limited but sensible changes to the Workforce Investment Act, Perkins and the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act by focusing existing training dollars towards nationally-portable, industry recognized certifications. The NAM has endorsed a series of certifications that train to exactly the skills necessary for success in Manufacturing. By pointing these Federal programs towards training that has been recognized by employers as in-demand we are ensuring that government resources are being used more effectively and that potential employees are being trained in marketable skills. We look forward to working with the sponsors on this important piece of legislation as it moves through Congress.

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STEM Jobs Act a Positive Step Toward Closing the Skills Gap

Manufacturers need a skilled workforce to succeed in today’s global economy. Although we need machinists and welders, we also need to ensure that the innovators, those driving change and invention, come and stay in the US.

Many of the smartest people from around the world come to the US to be educated. That is why the NAM commends introduction of the “STEM Jobs Act of 2012” by thank Chairman Lamar Smith and we urge Congress to pass it. This bill will allow manufacturers access to talent without increasing the total number of visas.  By creating two new employment-based visa categories for Masters and PhD graduates from qualified universities in STEM fields, the bill allows for a streamlined green card process.  This is an important step towards reforming the employment-based visa system to retain talent and encourage innovation, so US manufacturing can remain a global leader. This positive step is recognized by both Democrats and Republicans as evidenced by bills authored by both Rep Lofgren and Senator Schumer that also increase employment based visas.  The NAM has long worked for a bi-partisan solution to this problem and will continue to pursue broad reforms.

The NAM looks forward to working with the co-sponsors to promote this valuable legislation.

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BASF Talks About Skills Gap at NAM Summit

BASF, whose U.S. headquarters is found in Florence, N.J., has been an active part of the NAM Summit today, taking the message of lower taxes, affordable energy, and a skilled workforce all over Capitol Hill.

In one meeting with Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), they shared the ongoing issue of the skills gap that has left 600,000 manufacturing jobs unfilled across America. They are asking Congress to pass the America Works Act in order to create a nationally portable certification system to address the problem.

BASF is doing their part to create jobs and in the near future will be adding over 100 jobs at their North Carolina facilities.

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Defense Authorization Amendment Would Help Vets Toward Manufacturing Jobs

Yesterday, Representative Joe Walsh (R-IL) filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which adds industry recognized credentials to the Department of Defense Pilot Program on Receipt of Civilian Credentialing for Military Occupational Skills. One of the greatest challenges facing manufacturers today is this inability to find the skilled talent needed for today’s modern manufacturing. The skills obtained in the military are highly sought after in the private sector; however it is often difficult to align those skills with civilian job descriptions. It is our hope that this pilot program, with the inclusion of industry-recognized credentials, will begin to bridge that gap.

By using industry-recognized credentials as the basis for identifying competencies, separating military will know exactly what jobs they are qualified for and employers will have a better understanding of which candidates possess the skills required.  The NAM supports Congressman Walsh’s amendment and urges its adoption.

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