Yesterday, I traveled back to Capitol Hill to join House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer at a meeting hosted by the Make it in America Working Group. The group is comprised of 30 Democratic members that are working to promote and support policies that grow American manufacturing and a strong domestic workforce. The Department of Labor is advancing a similar agenda, and I was happy to learn about the ways in which the group is collaborating to put Americans back to work.
The “Make it in America” agenda is intended to create the conditions American businesses need to produce goods here, innovate here, and create jobs here. It promotes key investments designed to help America out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build our international competitors. President Obama has already signed six “Make It in America” bills into law.
We know that winning the future requires more than just good legislation. It requires building consensus and forging sound partnerships. That’s why I was proud to learn that the “Make it in America” agenda is garnering support from business and labor leaders alike and that many of its successes have won support from both sides of the aisle.
Building a vibrant manufacturing industry is in everyone’s interest. A strong manufacturing sector can create good jobs for working families, support American business, boost local economies, and sustain entire communities.
Currently, the manufacturing sector employs over 11 million Americans, and has been one of the leading industries in the recovery with over 250,000 jobs added since the beginning of 2010. These jobs offer economic opportunity to middle-skill workers, create upward mobility, and broaden the middle class to the benefit of the entire economy.
That’s why this administration is taking bold steps to make sure we match up schools and businesses to create direct pipelines, from the classroom to the office or the factory floor. President Obama took one big step last month when he launched the “Advanced Manufacturing Partnership,” which brings together industry, universities and the federal government to invest in emerging technologies. It also leverages existing programs and will invest more than $500 million to build domestic manufacturing capabilities in critical industries.
The Labor Department is doing its part to help. In spring 2010, we released an updated advanced manufacturing competency model. Working with our manufacturing industry partners, this employer-validated model outlines the skills necessary to pursue a successful career in the manufacturing industry.
Later this fall, we will announce the winners of our TAA Community College Career Training grant program (TAACCCT), in which one of our primary areas of focus is encouraging community colleges to work with businesses when designing their training programs for industries like manufacturing. We’ve also made $240 million in competitive grants available to provide training and job placement in industries for which employers are using H-1B visas to hire foreign workers. Manufacturing is among the top 10 industries for which H-1B visas are granted.
We also continue to support registered apprenticeships. These programs bring management and labor unions together to provide first-rate training, which afford good jobs with decent pay. There are approximately 17,000 active apprentices in Advanced Manufacturing programs and over 3,000 active apprenticeship programs in Advanced Manufacturing.
I was just in California last week to visit the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority where an innovative labor/management partnership was on display. Transit officials recently added 90 hybrid buses to their fleet. Together with the local transit union, they have used a cutting-edge training program to create almost 100 jobs by giving current workers new skills to move up the career ladder.
We’re doing a lot to support manufacturing at the Department of Labor – largely because we are led by a President who knows the industry is central to spurring economic growth. From what I gathered at my meeting on the Hill today, the Make it in America working group agrees. They believe, like we do, that when more products are made in America, more families can make it in America, too.