Council on Competitiveness Holds Congressional Briefing in Conjunction With U.S. House of Representatives Manufacturing Caucus
WASHINGTON, May 8, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Council on Competitiveness and the U.S. House of Representatives Manufacturing Caucus today assessed the "smart, safe, sustainable and surging" state of manufacturing in the United States, and addressed the critical actions that both the private and public sectors must take to foster breakthrough innovations, rapid commercialization and manufacturing at scale. The Council, whose members lead the nation's industries, labor unions, cutting-edge universities and research labs, has been fueling a United States manufacturing movement. Its success is essential to the nation's economic security. By bringing some of the country's top stakeholders to Capitol Hill, and engaging U.S. lawmakers, the Council stressed how critical Congress is to this effort.
Moderating today's panel: Deborah L. Wince Smith, president and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness. Joining her were Pierre L. Gauthier, president of Alstom in the U.S. and Canada; Thomas Mason, director, Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Charles W. Steger, president, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA Tech); and Terrence Urbanek, international representative, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters.
The panelists moved quickly through a challenging set of issues. "Certainty drives the market. It's that simple," Alstom's Gauthier said to the Capitol Hill meeting room of leaders from the business and legislative worlds. "When clear and consistent policies establish certainty in the marketplace, investments begin to flow. And advanced manufacturing companies, like Alstom, put talented Americans to work, delivering high-quality products for use here at home, and for export to customers around the world. Establishing clear, long-term policies for energy and transportation is vital to the country's manufacturing competitiveness."
Clear policies can reassure investors, but people – a skilled workforce – must be capable of realizing those investments. Oak Ridge's Thomas Mason talked of the vitality of "commercial activities here in the U.S., and innovation not just in materials, not just in design, but in manufacturing." Because production is much more complex and requires more intellectual capital, these "very tech-intensive occupations" offer "solid, long-term employment prospects." The broader challenge, he said, is "making sure that the results of U.S. innovation land at home."
Developing home-grown talent has become a priority for post-secondary schools, from community colleges to university systems, as they are increasingly engaged with their communities to cultivate an interest in the skills and education required to fill skilled jobs. VA Tech is among those on the leading edge. The University is a partner in the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, including the University of Virginia and Virginia State University. VA Tech's Steger says the school's educators put a premium on "the experiential learning model," by bringing students to the factory floor and laboratories and that corporate-supplied technology and simulators give the students "a chance to work with corporate supplied equipment that we could not afford."
Tapping into highly-motivated job seekers, easily deployable in the work place, is the essence of the United Association of Plumber and Pipefitters, the union that is intent on integrating American veterans into productive civilian jobs through welding training and apprenticeships. The UA's Urbanek talked about the just-in-time training program, Veterans in Pipefitting (VIP), which draws from those newly returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and from military bases where soldiers can begin their training toward the end of their active duty. VIP trained veterans, Urbanek noted, are equipped with modular skills, strong earning potential and "have a 100 percent job placement rate."
Representative Donald Manzullo (R) of Illinois listened intently to the panelists and lamented the lack of high-skilled workers undermines U.S. advanced manufacturing. He spoke of the research and technological gains that have translated into more sophisticated production, have required more cultivated skills sets than employers are able to find. And he called out a major cause: the misperception that manufacturing jobs are outdated and dead-end, while the reality is that manufacturing careers cut across all industries and education levels, demanding well-prepared talent and promising higher wages. "We can promote advanced manufacturing in the U.S. with tax incentives and leveling the playing field in terms of trade and R&D investments, but none of this will matter if we don't have a competent, eager, and well-trained workforce."
House of Representatives Manufacturing Caucus Co-Chairs, Rep. Manzullo and Rep. Tim Ryan (D) of Ohio, have "elevated, to a national imperative, the policies we need to grow our manufacturing base and to keep America competitive," Ms. Wince-Smith said. "We look forward to working with them and with the members of the caucus on these critical issues moving forward; the broader the engagement, the stronger the momentum."
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For 25 years, the Council on Competitiveness has developed solutions to drive U.S. competitiveness, productivity and standard of living. We are CEOs of major American corporations; presidents of the nation's top universities, colleges and community colleges; and leaders of labor unions whose membership extends nationwide.
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