In an initiative laid out in his State of the Union address, President Obama has stated his plans to build on the momentum of manufacturing growth in the U.S. The plan basically rests on four proposals, outlined here from the White House web site:
- Partnering with businesses and communities to invest in American-made technologies and American workers through a network of new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes: The President has proposed a one-time $1 billion investment to create a network of 15 manufacturing innovation institutes across the country, and urges Congress to act on this proposal. But to make progress right away, he is also acting through executive authority to launch three new institutes, which are partnerships among business, universities and community colleges, and government, to develop and build manufacturing technologies and capabilities that will help U.S.-based manufacturers and workers create good jobs.
- Ending tax breaks to ship jobs overseas and making the U.S. more competitive: To support our manufacturers and encourage companies to invest in the U.S., the President has proposed to reform our business tax code, lowering the rate for manufacturers to 25 percent, expanding and making permanent the research and development tax credit, and putting in place a global minimum tax to prevent a race to the bottom in corporate tax rates.
- Bringing Jobs Back: The President has proposed a new partnership with communities to attract manufacturers and their supply chains, especially to hard hit manufacturing towns. The President is also proposing to expand SelectUSA, a program designed to partner with our governors and mayors to bring in business investment from around the world, ensuring that America can compete globally and bring jobs and investment to our shores.
- Leveling the playing field and opening markets for American-made products: In addition to the President’s efforts to double exports, including through new steps to open markets in Asia and Europe to American-made goods, the President will continue to enforce trade laws to protect American workers from unfair trade practices and strengthen the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center launched last year.
So, these institutes are “partnerships among business, universities and community colleges, and government, to develop and build manufacturing technologies and capabilities that will help U.S.-based manufacturers and workers create good jobs.” Translated: expensive consultants will be paid a lot of money to come up with ideas on how to make manufacturing more efficient, leaner, greener, more technology-based and sexy so that we can get more people back to work.
That sounds very cool, but I’m a little confused about how they are going to solve one of the biggest issues faced by manufacturers even now. So many times in my interviews, I hear that, despite the high unemployment rate, companies have to scramble to find skilled workers or to find replacements to fill the jobs vacated in increasing numbers by baby boomers. This is true of manufacturers and end users including refineries, petrochemical plants and utilities. Are training programs going to be included in these institutes? And if they are, where are potential employees going to get the money to take the courses that will prepare them for high technology manufacturing jobs? Is that money going to be included in these billion dollars?
If anyone out there has the answers, I’d love to hear from you so we can pass them on to our readers.