Strengthening Manufacturing


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Excerpts of the "Manufacturing In America" report by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
"... Strengthening Education, Retraining, and Economic Diversification Manufacturing"

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Strengthening Manufacturing

  1. 1. Strengthening Education,Retraining, and EconomicDiversification To remain globally competitive, edu-cation and worker training strategies mustbe at the top of the national priority list.The administration successfully passed theNo Child Left Behind Act in 2001, and isnow working to fully implement thislandmark education reform. The adminis-tration is also investing $1 billion overfive years to improve math and scienceeducation. In addition, under President Bush’sleadership, the Departments of Commerceand Labor have worked together through-out the country to link workforce devel-opment efforts with economic develop-ment efforts. Important initiatives includethe Department of Commerce’s EconomicAdjustment Program and the Departmentof Labor’s new 21st Century WorkforceInitiative, which strive to strengthen re-training systems that maintain the U.S.skills advantage in manufacturing. TheDepartment of Labor’s Employment andTraining Administration invests approxi-mately $10 billion a year in an array ofworkforce investment programs. Building on that record should takethe form of the steps set out below.Enhance Workforce SkillsEssential for Employment inManufacturing Enterprises of theFuture Manufacturers across the countryraised significant concerns about whetherAmerica was training the next generationof workers required to meet the needs ofan increasingly high-tech workplace aswell as to develop the manufacturing in-dustries of the future. There was clear sup-port for the development of improved vo-cational/technical training at both thesecondary and post-secondary level, aswell as for programs designed to improve MANUFACTURING IN AMERICA 71
  2. 2. the skills of career-changing adults inter- Establish a High School and ested in manufacturing jobs. There was Technical Education Partnership also support for improvements in basic Initiative math and science education, such as the Congress should pass legislation cre- current five-year, $1-billion initiative for a ating a coordinated high schools and new math and science partnership pro- technical education improvement pro- gram that will strengthen math and sci- gram, utilizing secondary and technical ence teaching and education at all levels. education state grants, as proposed in the It is important to define the starting president’s budget for fiscal year 2004. point for improving the skills and prepara- This program would provide high-quality tion of the U.S. workforce. Toward that technical education through partnerships end, the Department of Labor, in conjunc- between high schools and postsecondary tion with the Departments of Commerce institutions. Such an initiative, adminis- and Education, should undertake a bench- tered by the Department of Education, mark analysis of the existing skills of the would support secondary and postsec- U.S. workforce and the future needs of the ondary career and technical education U.S. manufacturing sector. The effort programs in high-demand occupational should be designed to inform both pro- areas. The high school component would grammatic changes at the federal level and include a challenging academic core to suggestions for curricula at the local level. ensure that students in the program meet The analysis should address ways that state achievement standards and obtain a federal programs that support basic educa- clear pathway to further education be- tion for elementary and secondary stu- yond high school, through apprenticeship dents will prepare them to enter the work- or postsecondary technical certificates and force without the need for significant associate or baccalaureate degree pro- remedial education. The analysis should grams. Such an initiative will ensure that catalog the basic academic skills needed students are being taught the necessary for individuals entering the manufactur- skills to make successful transitions from ing workforce and assess the extent to high school to college and college to the which primary and secondary education workforce. in the United States provide those skills. The second step in the analysis goes Establish Personal Reemployment to the specialized training needed to suc- Accounts ceed in the manufacturing environment In any period of economic adjust- of the future. Historically, U.S. schools, ment, the most significant challenge is particularly in secondary education, pro- how best to ensure that workers who lose vided a number of opportunities for voca- their jobs can successfully re-enter the tional training. Over time, these opportu- workforce. The federal and state govern- nities have declined, and the educational ments provide a number of programs de- system has relied more heavily on special- signed to help workers find new jobs with ized vocational-technical schools, at both training and re-employment assistance. the secondary and post-secondary level, to Toward that end, President Bush has fill in the gap. The analysis should exam- proposed a Personal Reemployment Ac- ine whether the existing system of voca- count initiative to assist Americans who tional-technical education is sufficient to need the most help getting back to work. meet the needs of the U.S. manufacturing This innovative approach to worker ad- sector and should propose recommenda- justment would offer accounts of up to tions for change where needed. $3,000 each to eligible individuals to pur- chase job training and key services, such72 U. S. D E P A R T M E N T O F C O M M E R C E
  3. 3. as child care and transportation, to help Given that early intervention andthem look for a job and get back to work planning are critical for communities atquickly. As a further incentive, recipients risk, the first step the task force shouldwould be able to keep the balance of the take is to identify criteria for determiningaccount as a cash reemployment bonus if when a rapid response is needed. The taskthey become reemployed within 13 force would then work with the commu-weeks. The Bush administration has in- nities identified under these criteria tocluded Personal Reemployment Accounts develop market-based development poli-in its legislative proposal to reauthorize cies that seek to retain manufacturingand reform the Workforce Investment Act. jobs in a community, while beginning the efforts to diversify the economic baseCoordinate Economic Adjustment of the community.for Manufacturing Communities Communities are hard hit when local Improve Delivery of Assistance formanufacturing declines, particularly when and Retraining of Displaceda local factory accounts for much of the Workersemployment in a city or town. Just as in- The challenges unfolding in manu-dividuals may need retraining to reenter facturing and in the job market representthe workforce, communities must, at a significant change from years past. In-times, develop alternative bases of eco- stead of individual industries facing par-nomic development. ticular adjustment issues due to stronger The federal government already has a import competition, the U.S. economy innumber of programs available that can be general is adjusting to fundamentalused to develop the competitiveness of changes underway in the world economy.communities and support innovation in While that process is particularly acute inmanufacturing. The challenge for commu- the manufacturing sector, it extendsnities often involves sorting out the pur- broadly throughout the U.S. economy.poses and requirements of those federal Current worker adjustment programs,programs and how they might best be em- in general, take one of two forms. Theployed or tailored to local circumstances. first involves the traditional suite of un- What is needed is an interagency fed- employment insurance and related pro-eral task force, chaired by the Assistant Sec- grams that are designed with the individ-retary of Commerce for Economic Develop- ual worker in mind. That individual’sment, to coordinate the efforts of relevant employment prospects may or may not befederal agencies, particularly the Depart- related to more fundamental changes un-ments of Labor and Education, in address- derway in the economy. The alternativeing the structural economic challenges form is the suite of trade adjustment assis-faced by manufacturing-dependent com- tance programs that fund extended unem-munities. The task force would ensure that ployment and retraining for eligible work-all federal agencies work together, coordi- ers. Here, eligibility is defined in terms ofnating resources and strategies to best pro- whether the employee can point to somevide a range of assistance to eligible com- direct trade impact that has displaced himmunities. More specifically, the task force or her from a job.would provide a means of rapid response, Neither of the current programs fullyidentifying communities where the em- addresses the sort of adjustment under-ployment base is substantially dependent way in today’s economy. What that callson only a few manufacturing companiesand the communities that are at a signifi-cant risk of economic dislocation. MANUFACTURING IN AMERICA 73
  4. 4. for is a fundamental reassessment of both able workers to transform their skills in types of programs to see how they might order to gain employment in emerging best be integrated into a coordinated ap- and growing industries. The administra- proach to adjustment, reemployment, and tion is seeking to strengthen this system retraining. Toward that end, the Com- through the re-authorization of the Work- merce and Labor Departments, with the force Investment Act. Among the changes assistance of the Department of Educa- sought are to make funding more accessi- tion, should review the existing programs ble through consolidation, to make the and provide recommendations on how system more responsive to business needs, best to integrate them into a coherent and to strengthen accountability. program that is dedicated to addressing the needs of workers affected by the ongo- ing adjustment in the rapidly changing economic environment. This effort should build on the work currently underway through the Labor Department’s High Growth Job Training Initiative. That initiative facilitates collab- oration among employers, industry lead- ers, business associations, educators, com- munity and technical colleges, and the public workforce system to tailor training programs to meet local workforce needs. As part of this initiative, the Depart- ment of Labor is working with the manu- facturing industry and others to conduct a nationwide review of workforce chal- lenges. Key manufacturing sectors include electronics, motor vehicles, communica- tions equipment, aerospace, plastics and pharmaceuticals. These sectors, and the manufacturing industry in general, are undergoing a transformation as a result of technological advances, requiring workers to adopt and perform new skills. Through collaborative efforts, the High Growth Job Training Initiative will identify those skills and work with institutions to develop suc- cessful training models. In addition, Congress must pass the Bush administration’s plan to strengthen the Workforce Investment Act. Annually, the Department of Labor spends $15 bil- lion on the nation’s “One-Stop” employ- ment and job training system. Over 3,800 One-Stop centers provide services that en-74 U. S. D E P A R T M E N T O F C O M M E R C E