By: Jennifer Hice
on Wednesday, June 15, 2011
President Obama is making waves within the manufacturing community this month, recently sharing his vision for job growth
with a crowd of business executives and students participating in an automotive training program at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria. Amidst the darkening shadow of doubt cast over Obama’s ability to stimulate the economy, the President and members of his Administration are busy traveling the country, touting the latest campaigns to spur job creation, including the Skills for America’s Future
initiative. The program would establish a partnership between the manufacturing industry and community colleges, in which the two would collaborate on the creation of courses designed to teach students specific skills for the purpose of earning industry-recognized credentials. In theory, students would then earn a degree for a specific purpose, thus making them prime candidates for hire upon graduating. So, how will this program (and others like it) benefit American’s small business owners (future employers) and active job seekers (future employees)?
Why is the need for more manufacturing jobs so important to the U.S. economy? The strength of America’s manufacturing industry is of vital importance to the country’s economic success. Without a healthy manufacturing sector, the U.S. is at risk for further economic decline, making recovery from the recession even more difficult. The country would also be in danger of losing its position as a leading global competitor. A thriving manufacturing industry would increase tax revenues for government initiatives and help to decrease the nation’s mounting trade deficit. Most importantly, a strong manufacturing industry would provide millions of Americans, at all skill levels, with high-paying jobs.
As a country, if we are unable to create and execute a robust plan to reenergize the manufacturing industry, countries like China will continue to overtake our innovation, output and economic strength. Alarmingly, the United States does not currently have a National Manufacturing Strategy, a fact which is especially concerning, considering the fact that 19 members of the G-20 (a group finance ministers and central bank governors of 20 major economies) do have defined Manufacturing Policies. Developing countries have even helped their manufacturing to thrive by creating incentives for companies to conduct business by lowering tax rates, promoting research and easing trade restrictions.
For these reasons, President Obama’s latest political move is especially critical for the future of the country’s economy. Obama is heavily promoting the dire need to strengthen and grow the nation’s manufacturing sector, proclaiming that America can “win the future” by rebuilding the struggling industry. The President’s Skills for America’s Future, program is a meaningful example of the type of campaigns currently underway to positively impact the future of the nation’s manufacturing industry. The main goal of the program is to drive college students to pursue hands-on, manufacturing-based work by encouraging the expansion of collegiate-level, industry-supported certification programs, which would create pools of graduates from which businesses could then hire.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, consider for a moment that you are a general business major in your last semester of school. You are being recruited by a local potato chip manufacturing company (think, smaller version of Frito Lay). The company is looking for a Plant Manager and has flown you in to tour their facility and educate you on their potato chip making process. You may have always seen yourself sitting behind a desk, managing spreadsheets, rather than potatoes, but from a pay standpoint, the position of Plant Manager is comparable to managerial jobs in other fields. Moreover, you have already completed college courses specific to manufacturing plant management, all of which make the Plant Manager position even more appealing to you (while simultaneously making your qualifications equally as appealing to the potential employer). Given the idea behind programs like Obama’s Skills for America’s Future, this seems to be exactly what the President is hoping to encourage.
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Additionally, from a small business
owner’s standpoint, there are several advantages to engaging in this type of program. Manufacturing companies will have access to bright young minds, all of whom will have completed course curriculum specific to the industry. Educating young people about local businesses and the career opportunities in which they can apply their college-learned talents would benefit both potential employers, as well as potential employees. Moreover, because the manufacturing industry includes a variety of businesses, both large and small in size, there is great potential for a large number of job opportunities to become available. For example, think about the small glass blowing studio you visited while on vacation in West Virginia, the cabinet building shop employed to refurbish your kitchen, the pool builder your neighbor hired for a summer installation and the concrete making company with whom the pool builder partnered. All of these are perfect examples of small, medium and large manufacturing businesses that can be found in your local community.
This country’s economy is based on the production of goods and services. As a nation, we have focused so heavily on building businesses within the service industry that we have actually lost some momentum with regard to the production of goods, especially when compared to other countries. The fact remains, a large number of local manufacturing companies are in need of well-trained, well-educated and talented employees, so it will be interesting to see the progression of targeted economic growth campaigns like those currently being promoted by the Obama Administration.