The Germans Are Right. Workforce Training is Vital to Manufacturing Job Creation.

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

German Chancellor Angela Merkel came to Washington on Friday to meet with President Donald Trump for the first time. You probably already know how it went.

Yeah. It was awkward.

While her public appearances with Trump didn’t go so great, it appears that a bit of progress was made during at least one White House meeting. Perhaps knowing Trump would want to talk trade and job creation, Merkel brought along the chief executives of three of Germany’s top manufacturers — industrial giant Siemens AG, automaker BMW AG and auto supplier Schaeffler AG — to share with Trump some ideas for growing U.S. industry.

And Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser told the Wall Street Journal their meeting with the president “was encouraging.” The CEOs focused their discussion on vocational training programs, which Germany excels in, and apparently the president was receptive. Here’s the WSJ:

“The CEOs told him German programs could be models for U.S. industry, and German companies can help establish them. … The CEOs said vocational training programs are even more important as robotics and artificial intelligence begin to radically transform manufacturing.”

While Trump might have appeared receptive in the meeting, the budget plan he released earlier in the week tells a different story. It calls for federal funding cuts to several programs designed to support American manufacturing, like the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and cuts to a number of federally funded job training programs.

In the Cleveland area, for example, many local nonprofit and government programs rely on federal funding for training programs that help workers find jobs in sectors like manufacturing and health care. These programs have been crucial for many workers who once had old school factory jobs but are now transitioning to new jobs that require more advanced skills.

Rather than cutting funding to job training programs, the president and his team should be focused on refining and creating the kinds of workforce training programs needed for the manufacturing jobs of the 21st century.

If Trump succeeds in his plan to bring back millions of manufacturing jobs — something we hope does indeed happen — it’s important to remember that these jobs won’t look like the manufacturing jobs of the 1950s.

Instead, these jobs will require workers to possess a new set of advanced skills, and the United States must make sure it has a vocational system that can properly train these workers. In fact, our own Scott Paul discussed this very topic on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on Sunday morning.

“Our vocational system… was very adept, I think, at producing skilled workers up to and through the early 1990s,” Paul said. It “shifted in emphasis after that to focus on services. So there was a gap in opportunities for vocational training. At the same time, and I’ve heard this from a lot of folks, there’s no shop class anymore in high school. So the underpinnings of that vocational training in high school has disappeared.”

The Obama administration recognized this challenge, and awarded millions of dollars in grants to expand apprenticeship programs in several fields, including in manufacturing. Many high schools also have begun to reintroduce vocational training programs, including the Manufacturing Connect program at Austin College and Career Academy in Chicago, which former President Obama cited as a model.

Other model programs include Steelworker for the Future, which provides on-the-job training for participants while they earn an associate’s degree (and the students earn a paycheck along the way). Community colleges also have a big role to play in training the workforce of the future, Paul noted.

“In the old days, that factory owner could just walk into the high school and say, ‘Hey, who do you got in your shop class who’s coming out and gonna graduate?’ And they could do a couple months of training and get them up and running,” Paul added. “The jobs are different today. Most of them require something more than a high school degree, and those classes don’t exist anymore in a lot of high schools. It’s a new era.”

President Trump has made manufacturing job creation a priority for his presidency. While he’s focused most of his attention on reworking America’s trade relationships, Trump also must take steps at home to ensure that American workers — including those who have suffered as a result of unfair trade — will have the training they need to take on jobs that will require an advanced set of skills. 

The White House on Monday reported that Trump "will lead the country in an effort to embrace new and effective job-training approaches," and noted that the president called workforce development programs "a top priority of his Administration." Here's hoping he keeps his word.


This was reposted from AAM.

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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