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An American Manufacturing Movement: Talent

Wed, 01/11/2012 - 12:58pm

This five-part series by the Council on Competitiveness calls for a new era of production excellence in America. Check back throughout the week for more strategies for American manufacturing excellence.

Part 1: Innovation

Part 2: Expansion 

Part 3: Talent (you are here)

Part 4: Productivity

Part 5: Competition


The Council on Competitiveness’s Make: An American Manufacturing report issues a call to the American people to keep manufacturing a cornerstone of American independence, economic prosperity, and national security. This series was recently presented to the government as a non-partisan strategy to resolve issues facing American manufacturing, which remains a driver of innovation and job creation, even as automa­tion and technology make manufacturing more effi­cient. A new era of manufacturing excellence offers hope for good jobs, new innovations, and a higher standard of living. America would benefit from faster economic growth, a more secure industrial and defense base, and an ability to produce solutions to national challenges in energy, health, environment, and the economy.

Americans have lost production of cutting-edge innovations developed in America because of tax, regulatory, skill, finance, and infrastructure limitations that make production elsewhere more competitive. Americans have always been pioneers, risk-takers, and makers. The Council’s task is to set those impulses free and embrace production. Americans have proven adept at rising to the economic challenge of their time. Such a time is now for manufacturing—and Americans can set in place the policies to ignite a new era of competitive and sustainable manufacturing.

CHALLENGE: Harness the power and potential of American talent to win the future skills race. 
SOLUTION: Prepare the next generation of innovators, researchers, and skilled workers.

Recommendation: Federal, state, and local governments along with high schools, universities, community colleges, national laboratories, and industry should prioritize Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and push for greater integration of community colleges in the innovation pipeline.

  • Encourage and support high school students’ participation in engineering and manufacturing projects oriented towards work in production-related fields.
  • Integrate academic and technical education programs across universities and community colleges and ensure that students who participate in CTE programs are taught to a rigorous standard aligned with technical and industry requirements.
  • Expand the President’s jobs council fast-track “Right Skills Now Initiative” that will help community colleges target specific skills gaps and provide accelerated training to unemployed and transitioning workers as well as filling the immediate needs of business.
  • Build effective public-private partnerships, in which community colleges collaborate with local industry to create degree programs essential to support economic development efforts.

Recommendation: Congress should implement immigration reform to ensure the world’s brightest talent innovate and create opportunities in the United States.

  • Align temporary work visas to quickly respond to industry needs.
  • Encourage and allow foreign students who receive graduate or post-graduate degrees in scientific and engineering disciplines from U.S. institutions to become citizens.

Recommendation: Congress, states, academia, industry, and national laboratories should renew efforts to expand STEM education and create opportunities to integrate into the workplace.

  • Enhance STEM teaching capabilities and reverse the student drop-out rate by more aggressively leveraging federal scientific agencies and the national laboratories and public research institutes.
  • Develop programs that provide access to mentors, STEM professionals, facilities, simulators, and equipment to give both teacher and student hands-on experience in the lab, on the factory floor and in the field.
  • Study and support programs that integrate arts education into traditional STEM instruction, sometimes known as STEAM. Studies suggest that exposure to the arts is linked to higher student performance in traditional STEM disciplines.
  • Initiate K-12 programs that emphasize team-based, experimental, and inter-disciplinary learning geared toward problem solving. Promotion through such programs should be based on mastery of material.
  • Raise the profile of STEM careers with a national awareness campaign including extensive social media outreach designed to motivate students, attract job seekers, and retain talent.
  • Encourage more industry leaders to coordinate their STEM promotional and educational efforts through programs such as “Change the Equation,” a network of more than 100 CEOs, focused on widespread literacy in STEM as a national investment.

Recommendation: The Small Business Administration (SBA) should create a program modeled after the SCORE program for retired business executives to mentor and counsel entrepreneurs.

  • Develop a national network of retired business leaders to mentor and counsel entrepreneurs on how to carry a new concept from product design through manufacturing and aftermarket support. Include modeling and simulation analysis and high performance computing to bridge a product from development to commercialization.

Recommendation: Industry and labor leaders should develop state-of-the-art apprenticeship programs for 21st century manufacturing.

  • Launch a national manufacturing apprenticeship program maintained and operated through shared staffing and financial contributions from both labor and industry.

Recommendation: The administration should create a ‘Veterans in Manufacturing Program’ to create opportunities for America’s soldiers.

  • Create a public-private partnership through the Department of Defense to identify opportunities for newly returning and older veterans to skill up for the manufacturing workforce, and allow the younger and older generations to cross train each other, where possible.

Recommendation: Academia, industry, and government should launch the ‘American Explorers Initiative’ to send more Americans abroad to study, perform research, and work in global businesses.

  • Significantly expand the Fulbright Program to include undergraduate students.
  • Send an additional 250,000 American students—undergraduates, graduates, and post-doctoral candidates—to participate in work or educational programs at universities, laboratories, and companies in key trading partnerships with emerging nations.

Recommendation: Congress should create opportunities and incentives for older Americans to remain vibrant contributors in the workforce.

  • Lift taxes that penalize older Americans for re-entering the workforce.
  • Expand Small Business Administration (SBA) loans to mature entrepreneurs.
  • Revise the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to generate a public-private partnership in providing skills assessments and training, as well as career advisory services, to mature job seekers.
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