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Robyn Boerstling

NAM Members Tackle Skills Gap in House Testimony

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Approximately 426,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs are going unfilled today because there simply are not enough qualified applicants to fill them. This is a big problem, the so-called “skills gap,” and it threatens not only the future of the manufacturing industry but of our economy more broadly. Worse, unless we do something to reverse this trend, that number of unfilled jobs is projected to rise to 2 million over a 10-year period. So what can we do?

That was the question before lawmakers today at a House of Representatives committee hearing titled “Jobs and Opportunity: Employer Perspectives on the Jobs Gap.” Among the expert witnesses called to testify before the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources were representatives of several National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) member companies.

Glenn Johnson, manufacturing workforce development leader at BASF Corporation, helped identify the challenge in his testimony:

“Recently, there has been national discussion around the ‘Jobs Gap.’ There are numerous studies announcing the shortage of American workers that possess hirable skills within manufacturing and other industries with technology roles. However, if we are to solve this issue, we must treat the root cause, not the symptom. The lack of skilled workers, for example, is a symptom. The root cause, however, is much more basic. In this country, we have allowed a narrative to develop that the “best” jobs are no longer in manufacturing, but in white-collar, office settings – although these jobs are also essential to manufacturing.”

This, of course, is a real problem. And yet, as Fiat Chrysler’s Head of Human Resources Barb Pilarski explained in her comments:

“First, our high school education system does not adequately expose students – especially those who may not be interested in a four-year college degree – to the manufacturing sector and the attractions of careers in this area. Second, this same education system has been inconsistent in terms of providing all graduating students with the skills to keep pace with the evolution of the [industry]….”

Both Johnson and Pilarski offered ideas on how to overcome these problems. So did Steve Staub, president of a small manufacturing company called Staub Manufacturing Solutions in Dayton, Ohio. You may remember Steve from his appearance at the State of the Union earlier this year as a guest of the First Lady. Well, as Steve explained in his testimony, small companies like his are roaring back and growing at a rapid pace—thanks in many ways to pro-growth policies out of Washington, like tax reform—but they simply are not able to find enough workers to keep pace with all the new openings they need to fill. And, as Steve reminded us:

Today’s manufacturing industry is modern, high tech, alive and growing, and it offers many promising career options—often, I should add, without the financial burdens that students and families face today….The average manufacturing worker earns about 27 percent more in wages and benefits than the average worker across all sectors.”

He explained what companies like his, educational institutions, organizations like the NAM and others are doing to take on the “skills gap” challenge as well as what Congress can do to help. I hope you’ll take a moment to check out his full testimony here. 

Louisiana Drug Importation Bill Threatens Patient Safety: Not Worth the Risk

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This week, the Louisiana House of Representatives is holding a hearing on legislation introduced earlier this year that would authorize the state to apply for federal approval to import prescription drugs from Canada. While manufacturers strongly support increased access to affordable prescription drugs, this bill would pose a significant safety risk by exposing consumers to counterfeit and adulterated therapies. Moreover, this legislation does not deliver on a promise to lower drug costs and is not worth the risk.

To date, no secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been willing to make a certification to permit drug importation. Concerns for the safety risks to U.S. consumers far outweigh the benefits, and this is well documented by Food and Drug Administration commissioners over the years. Furthermore, importing prescription drugs would not result in cost savings for consumers. The Canadian government has already stated that it will not take responsibility for the legitimacy or safety of prescription medicines exported to countries outside of Canada, leaving the financial and regulatory oversight to U.S. federal authorities and local law enforcement. Federal agencies and local law enforcement already have enough concerns when it comes to counterfeit drugs.

Consumer safety is the most important public policy concern, and the U.S. market for prescription drugs is the safest in the world. To succeed in driving down costs, our federal and state governments should support market-based policies that will support innovation and bring lifesaving medicines to patients.

The National Association of Manufacturers has a longstanding opposition to the importation of prescription drugs. Manufacturers urge Louisiana’s legislators to avoid any needless risks to public health by opposing any effort to allow for the importation or re-importation of prescription drugs.

Manufacturers Urge Maintaining the Value of Present Part D Networks

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As the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) closes in on finalizing anticipated 2019 changes to Medicare and several other CMS-sponsored programs, the National Association of Manufacturers urges CMS to refrain from changing its “Any Willing Pharmacy” requirements. Employers and employees increasingly rely on Medicare, Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D drug benefit programs for health coverage as some employers are sponsors of Part C and D plans for their retirees.

Competitive principles are a hallmark of the Part D program and have kept the program affordable for seniors over the past decade. This proposal directly conflicts with the Part D spirit and intent by adding new challenges and barriers to the establishment of preferred pharmacy networks. As stated in a public comment submitted earlier this year, we highlighted that preferred pharmacy networks allow for more streamlined management of pharmacy benefits by working to reduce fraud, waste and abuse, lowering the cost of the benefit for all Medicare beneficiaries and promoting the delivery of high-quality pharmacy services.

Most beneficiaries today choose to enroll in Part D plans with preferred pharmacies, and this proposal would disrupt their coverage without producing a benefit. Manufacturers strongly support proposals to reduce soaring health care costs, improve the efficiency of the current system and enhance the quality of care. However, the proposed changes by CMS don’t meet those tests. A recent Oliver Wyman report confirms the value of preferred pharmacy networks in the Part D program and employers agree.

Fiscal 2018 Omnibus Offers Opportunity to Advance CLOUD

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Manufacturers appreciate lawmakers’ inclusion of the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act in the fiscal 2018 omnibus funding package. This is a major victory for the delivery of strong standards and achieving much needed government-to-government cooperation to address new challenges presented by the digital age.

Digital information moves globally in ways that were never imagined decades ago. Current laws were written in 1986 and have not kept up to speed with technological advances and the connected world in which we live. Connected products, services and the technology of today demand a high level of certainty and stability so that the competitive needs of commerce are appropriately balanced with efforts to thwart international criminals and those who seek to harm our society.

The CLOUD Act provides law enforcement the tools they need to keep us safe and creates a legally responsible framework to address concerns of international customers and foreign governments to ensure the privacy and security of customer data. The National Association of Manufacturers has been a stalwart advocate along with other industries and has previously praised the CLOUD Act in a letter to lawmakers.

Cloud computing is a major growth opportunity for U.S.-based companies selling software and services overseas and a growing technology backbone for small businesses and manufacturers across the United States who are seeking opportunities to sell into overseas markets. Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers reside outside the United States, and the appetite for American-made products and technology continues to be robust, increasingly helping to support well-paying jobs across the country. The CLOUD Act achieves the right balance, and manufacturers are pleased to see advocacy efforts come to fruition.