U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced bipartisan legislation Thursday to help cities and states build 21st century manufacturing training programs. The Manufacturing Skills Act would create an annual $100 million competitive grant to support initiatives that strengthen the manufacturing workforce and address regional skills challenges.
"Manufacturing plays a critical role in building communities and strengthening the middle class," Senator Coons said. "Our country regained more than half a million manufacturing jobs in the last three years, but our training programs still haven't evolved to meet growing demand for high-skilled workers. We need to do a better job of training our workers for the manufacturing jobs of the 21st century, and that's exactly what this bipartisan bill will do. By helping cities and states craft effective, relevant workforce training programs, we can strengthen communities and ensure American manufacturing is primed for growth in the decades to come."
"In New Hampshire's high-tech manufacturing sector, there's a growing demand for workers who are skilled in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – or STEM – fields," said Senator Ayotte. "Our legislation would establish a competitive grant program to provide states and municipalities the resources and flexibility to develop training programs that reflect their unique needs and help ensure that America's workers have the skills and training necessary to compete in the 21st century global economy."
According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, the number of unfilled manufacturing jobs in the U.S. will reach approximately 875,000 by 2020. While many of these jobs require highly trained workers, the most in-demand skills vary considerably by region and industry. The Manufacturing Skills Act will give state and local leaders the resources and flexibility to design workforce-training programs that fit their regions' specific needs.
Applicants will establish a local task force, consisting of leaders from the public, nonprofit, and manufacturing sector, as well as labor and education representatives, to apply for and carry out the three-year grant. A federal inter-agency partnership will review applications and award grants to the five states and five metropolitan areas with the strongest proposals.
"DuPont believes a skilled manufacturing workforce helps us remain competitive in a global marketplace," said Matt Koenings, Vice President of Global Manufacturing at DuPont. "Operating today's manufacturing sites requires competence in advanced technologies such as robotics, operation control systems, and general STEM education to prepare workers for careers in innovation. The Manufacturing Skills Act of 2014 will strengthen the pipeline of talented workers DuPont relies on --from technicians who operate our plants to engineers who participate in the discovery process, provide technical expertise and execute our capital projects."
"The University of Delaware supports the goals of the Manufacturing Skills Act proposed by Sen. Coons and Sen. Ayotte," said Charles G. Riordan, Vice Provost for Research at the University of Delaware. "With a strong commitment to advanced manufacturing research and education, UD is well positioned to work collaboratively with partners, including those from the private sector, to revitalize U.S. manufacturing in the 21st century."
"As demand for manufacturing grows, it is vitally important that U.S. manufacturers have access to the skilled workforce they need to grow their businesses and compete in the global economy," said Angela Hanks, Federal Policy Analyst at the National Skills Coalition. "The Manufacturing Skills Act would help strengthen the U.S. manufacturing workforce by supporting efforts within states and metropolitan areas to close manufacturing skills gaps and build talent pipelines to meet the manufacturing sector's current and future workforce needs. National Skills Coalition applauds Senator Coons' and Senator Ayotte's efforts to strengthen America's economy by making critical investments in our nation's manufacturing sector."
The bill has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO, Association for Career & Technical Education, Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, Delaware Manufacturing Association, Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, DuPont, National Skills Coalition, New Hampshire Division of Resources and Economic Development, New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Third Way, United Autoworkers, University of Delaware, and the University of New Hampshire.