Industry Applauds National Attention on Manufacturing Workforce Development

June 8, 2011
Effort could help alleviate skilled workers shortage.

Is President Obamas announcement today of expanded efforts to boost U.S. manufacturing workforce skills the answer to the long-discussed skilled workers shortage?

That might be too much to ask for, but Mark Tomlinson, executive director and CEO of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, says its a start.

Its the beginning of the answer, says Tomlinson, who was at Northern Virginia Community College when the president announced a major expansion of Skills for Americas Future focused on the manufacturing sector. Skills for Americas Future is an initiative launched last year and designed to improve industry partnerships with community colleges to promote workforce development.

In his comments today the president pointed out that many manufacturers have skilled positions going unfilled even as U.S. joblessness remains at a troubling level. He described it as a mismatch we can close.

The expanded initiatives are aimed at resolving that mismatch and helping workers gain skills that will make America more competitive in the global economy, according to Obama.

The primary initiative includes a partnership with The Manufacturing Institute, the non-profit affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, to provide 500,000 community college students with manufacturing industry-recognized credentials to help them get jobs. The Manufacturing Skills Certification System was developed with help from multiple organizations, including SME, the American Welding Society, ACT and others.

The SMEs Tomlinson said manufacturing workforce development has not received the exposure it deserves at the highest levels, an oversight todays announcement helps to address.

Talking is the start weve been looking for, he says. We are now actually talking about the importance of manufacturing as vital to a healthy economy.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing also weighed in on todays announcement. The Skills for Americas Future partnership is a very promising initiative, the organization provided in a statement. To make it work, we will need better training opportunities in high school and, more than anything else, we will need to bust the myth that there is no future for a young man or woman in the factory.

The expansion of the Skills for Americas Future initiative also includes formalized efforts to promote the skills certification system, mentoring programs for high school and college students (The Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the SME Education Foundation is partnering with the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, the National Academy Foundation and General DynamicsOrdnance and Tactical Systems to provide more than 1,000 mentorships every year for the next five years), online resources for job seekers and a campaign to raise awareness about careers in manufacturing.

Also, several manufacturing leaders are joining the Skills for Americas Future board, including Greg Brown, Motorola chairman and CEO, and Nick Pinchuk, Snap-on chairman and CEO.

See also: Obama Touts National Manufacturing Certification Program

The Training Imperative

About the Author

Jill Jusko

Bio: Jill Jusko is executive editor for IndustryWeek. She has been writing about manufacturing operations leadership for more than 20 years. Her coverage spotlights companies that are in pursuit of world-class results in quality, productivity, cost and other benchmarks by implementing the latest continuous improvement and lean/Six-Sigma strategies. Jill also coordinates IndustryWeek’s Best Plants Awards Program, which annually salutes the leading manufacturing facilities in North America.

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