While I’ve been swamped with travel, getting an issue of Automation World out and meetings, I’ve been collecting responses to President Obama’s major manufacturing announcements. One of the responses I received was from a reader (who didn’t give me permission to use his name, so far) who voiced what is probably a wide-spread concern—“not sure I want the government doing anything.”

We live in a time of deep cynicism—especially about the government. There are things I would not leave to bureaucrats whether public or private (our large companies have their own share of bureaucrats). However, there are many policies that the government can and should do to promote manufacturing in the United States.

Skills for America’s Future

In the first announcement from June 8, President Obama announced a “major” expansion of Skills for America’s Future, an industry led initiative to dramatically improve industry partnerships with community colleges and build a nation-wide network to maximize workforce development strategies, job training programs, and job placements. It is said to “help prepare 500,000 workers for cutting-edge manufacturing jobs.”

One of the partners, The Manufacturing Institute, the affiliated non-profit of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), 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. Several other partners of Skills for America’s Future and The Manufacturing Institute will also help enhance these efforts through their own initiatives to bolster our nation’s manufacturing workforce.

I am not sanguine about certification in general, the attempt to align education and training with skills needed by manufacturers is laudable.

According to the release, “The Manufacturing Skills Certification System, developed with manufacturing firms at the table, will give students the opportunity to earn manufacturing credentials that will travel across state lines, be valued by a range of employers and improve earning power. In designing this program, the Manufacturing Institute has partnered with leading manufacturing firms, the Gates Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation, and key players in education and training including ACT, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the American Welding Society, the National Institute of Metalworking Skills, and the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council. This 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.”

SME Onboard

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and the SME Education Foundation, are partnering with the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) , the National Academy Foundation (NAF) and General Dynamics – Ordnance and Tactical Systems to provide more than 1,000 mentorships every year for the next 5 years, continuing their long tradition of mentoring high school and college students, teachers, counselors, and administrators on the requirements for a career in the high skilled, high tech environment of the 21st century manufacturing plant.

“This is about leveraging the knowledge of the current workforce to ensure a strong industrial base for years to come,” said Mark Tomlinson, executive director/CEO of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. “Professionals who are passionate about making things can share their enthusiasm with the next generation. That’s how to engage them – get the kids hooked on the thrill of seeing an idea become a reality.”

AMT also on board
The Association For Manufacturing Technology President Douglas K. Woods reacted positively to the news that President Obama is endorsing a manufacturing skills credentialing system to boost manufacturing jobs growth as part of his Skills for America’s Future initiative launched last year. “I am encouraged by the President’s speech today that he understands the importance of training and credentialing to building a manufacturing ‘smartforce,’ ” Woods said “The factory floor today is very different from what it used to be, and we need workers who are up to the job.”

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