NAM calls for new approach to boost skilled workforce

By Plant Engineering Staff August 31, 2005

In a Labor Day report on the state of U.S. manufacturing, the National Association of Manufacturers called for a three-pronged approach to making American manufacturing more competitive in a global marketplace by improving education, attracting more skilled workers internationally and increasing funding for research and development.

Acknowledging the uncertainty of the manufacturing job market after the loss of 3 million industry jobs in the last four year, the NAM report said, “if we are to alleviate this anxiety, keep our economy strong and successfully compete in the fiercely competitive international race to the top, we must recommit our nation to innovation and the concerted development of a more highly educated and skilled workforce.”

The NAM report, Preparing American Workers for 21stCentury Competition, (available for review at www.plantengineering.com), cited three steps needed to improve U.S manufacturing’s position in the marketplace:

  • Improve secondary science and math teaching

    • “One reason U.S. students under perform in math and science and are less likely to pursue post-secondary education in these disciplines is that there is a large disconnect in this country between the public education system and career opportunities that exist later on in life,” the report stated. “Together, our nation must initiate a campaign to educate students and teachers about the importance of science and math to individual success and to the types of careers available through excellence in these fields.”

    • Reform visa and immigration policies

      • By streamlining the process for foreign-born workers with advanced degrees from U.S. universities to obtain permanent residence status, NAM believes it will retain more American-trained workers. “Current demand greatly exceeds supply,” the report stated. “The United States should continue its longstanding history of welcoming talented foreign students to study at our nation’s universities.”

      • Increase federal support for basic research

        • “Agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Energy Department’s Office of Science perform valuable research that can spur economic growth for generations,” the report noted.

          “Without an educated and highly skilled workforce to drive 21stcentury innovation, America’s capacity to remain the world’s most advanced economy will be jeopardized,” the report concluded. “Other countries are running all out to close the innovation gap and, if we do not develop and implement a concerted national strategy to do the same, we will risk falling behind in our global economy’s fiercely competitive race to the top.”

          Labor Day FULL Report 2005