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President Obama and Skills for America’s Future work to improve manufacturing jobs

Efforts aim to help prepare 500,000 workers for cutting-edge manufacturing jobs.
By Noël P. Bodenburg, Executive Managing Editor
June 23, 2011

Last month at Northern Virginia Community College, President Barack Obama announced a major expansion of Skills for America’s Future. The program, an initiative of the Aspen Institute, is structured as a broad umbrella under which corporations, labor unions, community colleges and others can connect and work together to train and develop America’s workforce.

“Last year, we launched Skills for America’s Future to bring together companies and community colleges around a simple idea: making it easier for workers to gain new skills will make America more competitive in the global economy,” said President Obama. “We are announcing a number of partnerships that will help us make this a reality, by opening doors to new jobs for workers, and helping employers find the trained people they need to compete against companies around the world.” 

One of the challenges in today’s manufacturing sector is the lack of a standardized credentialing system that manufacturing firms recognize as useful preparation for their unfilled jobs. As a result, students often spend time and money on training that can have little value to potential employers while employers have difficulty identifying which credentials are of value and should influence hiring and promotions.

As part of the program’s expansion, The Manufacturing Institute, the affiliated non-profit of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and partner of the Skills for America program, has announced an effort to help provide 500,000 community college students with industry-recognized credentials that will help them get secure jobs in the manufacturing sector.

The Manufacturing Skills Certification System, developed by NAM with manufacturing firms at the table, addresses the deficits in manufacturing education and training. The system creates stackable credentials applicable to all sectors in the manufacturing industry.

In addition NAM and the Manufacturing Skills Certification System, several other partners are helping enhance these efforts through their own initiatives.

One of those is the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council’s (MSSC) Certified Production Technician (CPT) credential, which will allow students and workers to access this manufacturing credentials and pathways in community colleges in 30 states as a for-credit program of study.

“We are pleased to see this joint action from industry, education and the public sector to grow a skilled manufacturing workforce within the framework of a robust nationwide program with macro-economic impact,” said Leo Reddy, MSSC CEO. “The manufacturing jobs of the 21st century continue to become more technical and require a higher level of skill among front-line production workers. Based on MSSC’s industry-defined, nationally validated standards, the CPT program addresses this demand by certifying these workers in the core technical competencies of high performance manufacturing common to all manufacturing sectors.”

Some other programs include:
“Boots on the Ground” help for manufacturers to implement credentials: Through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), the Federal government will collaborate with The Manufacturing Institute in a program to promote a curriculum based on NAM’s advanced manufacturing skills certification system in community colleges in 30 states. The 60 centers of the national MEP system will serve as the “boots on the ground” with local manufacturers to educate them about the value the NAM-endorsed skills certification system to their business so that they utilize the skills certification system in recruitment and hiring. In addition, the MEP will provide input to The Manufacturing Institute about aggregate skill needs of manufacturers by industry and geography so that certification systems can remain dynamic and evolving.

Building these credentials into High School Pathways: Given that many students begin to seek manufacturing training before college, Air Products, a global manufacturer serving customers in industrial, energy, technology and healthcare markets, is partnering with SkillsUSA to build partnerships in 3,500 member high schools and more than 200 colleges to adopt these credentials in their schools.

Providing new online tools for workers: Students and employees in the manufacturing field will not only have a new, more meaningful certification program to take advantage of, but a new career website called Pipeline that will provide job seekers with real-time data on job openings and information on additional education needed. This effort will be headed up by Futures Inc. in partnership with the Manufacturing Institute in 17 partner states with plans to expand nationwide.

A Career Awareness Campaign: Students and employees in manufacturing will also be able to access critical resources for obtaining marketable job skills and expertise through “Discover Your Skills,” a Discovery Communications initiative designed to raise awareness of career opportunities. With collaborators including The Manufacturing Institute, National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and Skills for America’s Future, Discovery viewers will have a pathway to a world of resources to help educate and advance entry into the workforce.

Opportunities for at-risk youth: At-risk young people will be provided additional assistance through Jobs for America’s Graduates’ new commitment to a five-year goal of helping 30,000 high-risk youth obtain professional credentials in high demand occupations including Advanced Manufacturing.  Archer Daniels Midland Company, a leading global agribusiness with operations in 36 states and a JAG board member, will serve as JAG’s National Business Partner.

Creating our next generation engineering workforce: In addition, more than 5,000 young people will be able to benefit from a mentorship program and scholarships being expanded by The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the SME Education Foundation and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering and the National Academy Foundation.

About the Author

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Noël P. Bodenburg
Executive Managing Editor

Noël P. Bodenburg, executive managing editor, has been with Modern Materials Handling and Material Handling Product News since 2006. She is a graduate of Boston University. Prior to joining the Supply Chain Group magazines, Noël worked as a production and managing editor at other industry business-to-business publications.


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