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The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) called the reform of America’s public school system, “a national imperative that must be addressed by government, educators and business leaders across the nation,” on the eve of the 25th anniversary (April 25) of, “A Nation at Risk,” the National Commission on Excellence in Education report that condemned America’s “mediocre” educational performance.
“It is clear to the nation’s manufacturers that America is still ‘a nation at risk’ when it comes to preparing young people for real life and real jobs,” said NAM president John Engler. “The timing could not be worse. As competition intensifies in the global marketplace, U.S. manufacturers are having a tough time finding qualified people to replace the retiring baby boom generation in increasingly high-tech and sophisticated jobs. America’s public school system is failing to make education relevant to today’s career opportunities. We must keep students in school by offering alternative pathways to graduation. We must ensure that high school graduates are ready for work and ready for college if we want to have the educated and prepared workforce necessary to keep America competitive in the global economy.
“Manufacturers are dealing with the most dramatic workforce crisis in U.S. history. Eighty percent of manufacturers report shortages of qualified workers. While manufacturing provides good, family-supporting jobs with the highest average salary among all business sectors, young people, their parents and teachers don’t know about manufacturing’s promising career opportunities. The education and business communities must work more closely together to align educational programs with the academic and occupational skills necessary for 21st century manufacturing careers.”
Engler said the NAM is aggressively pursuing practical educational and workforce initiatives through its new National Center for the American Workforce.
“The NAM has an ambitious agenda for change to ensure that more young people graduate from high school ready for advanced education or entry-level work in the manufacturing economy,” said NAM senior vice president Emily DeRocco, president of the new center. “We must similarly ensure that all workers in transition are equipped with the right skills to succeed. The NAM will design and endorse a skills certification system to provide industry recognition of education, skills and competencies needed for entry-level jobs and advancement opportunities in manufacturing. We are designing a new cyber-presence to provide good career guidance in the manufacturing economy, directing young people to both education and job opportunities. The NAM career awareness campaign ‘Dream It. Do It.’ continues to expand, with 12 states/regions now focusing students and educators on careers in manufacturing. Working with community colleges, we will help align career and technical education programs in high schools and post-secondary schools with industry-recognized skills certifications to help bridge from education to employment. We also are exploring ways to bring to scale programs like SkillsUSA, Jobs for America’s Graduates and Project Lead the Way that help at-risk young people stay in school and achieve graduation and a work readiness credential. America’s young people deserve the opportunity for life success that stems from a strong educational foundation. America’s manufacturers tell us that the shortage of skilled employees threatens product innovation and our nation’s ability to compete in global markets. We must come together as a nation to make education more relevant to careers, keep more young people in school and help keep the U.S. manufacturing workforce the best in the world.”
The National Association of Manufacturers is the nation’s largest industrial trade association, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the NAM has 11 additional offices across the country. Visit www.nam.org for more information about manufacturing and the economy.