WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to get Congress to refocus on manufacturing jobs, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today joined a group of 21 U.S. senators in launching the “Manufacturing Jobs for America” initiative, which seeks to build bipartisan support for legislation that will help create jobs, modernize America’s manufacturing sector, and improve workforce training.  A key piece of the initiative is Senator Reed’s Adult Education and Economic Growth Act (S. 1400), which will reform and increase investment in job training and adult education and help connect adult learners with opportunities for jobs.

Specifically, the Adult Education and Economic Growth Act would:

•           Encourage employers to invest in lower skilled working adults by providing a tax credit for employers who invest in their employee's education;

•           Increase funding for adult education to provide additional support for state and local authorities to ensure collaboration between adult education and workforce needs; and

•           Expand access to adult education services through the use of technology.

“The best way to keep our economy moving forward is to get people back to work, and the best resource for our economy is an educated and skilled workforce.  We need to invest in human capital,” said Senator Reed.  “The “Manufacturing Jobs in America” agenda shows there is a broad range of things Congress should be doing to help create jobs.  One of the initiatives I have put forward as part of this effort is the Adult Education and Economic Growth Act, which creates and supports avenues for adults to continue their education and build their career skills.  By better aligning education and workforce training programs to the jobs that are available we can help people get the jobs of today and prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Despite high unemployment levels, a recent Deloitte and Manufacturing Institute online survey found there are an estimated 600,000 unfilled U.S. manufacturing jobs due to a lack of workers with the right skills. 

But the U.S. has chronically under-invested in job-training and workforce development.  According to Senator Reed, 150,000 Rhode Islanders could benefit from some form of job-skills training or adult education right now.  But today there’s only enough financing to help 6,500 (4.3%).

“Adult education can help bridge the skills gap that separates people seeking work from those who are offering good paying jobs.  We need to effectively prepare our workers to meet the demands of a shifting economy.  Investing in adult education programs helps American workers learn new skills and improve their lives.  It gives them a platform for upward mobility both professionally and personally.  It can help lift individuals, communities, and businesses together because the more skilled workers out there earning a paycheck, the more demand there is for the goods and services our businesses offer.”

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST), Rhode Island has an estimated 1,500 manufacturers, and 95 percent have fewer than 100 employees.  In 2011, these manufacturers employed 40,349 workers. 

To help local manufacturers, Senator Reed has secured federal funding for the Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Services (RIMES), a nonprofit funded jointly by the federal and private investments.  RIMES has a strong record of helping local small and medium-sized manufacturers in the state with improving operations and increasing efficiency.  Earlier this year, Reed helped secure $750,000 in federal Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) funding for the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation to help local manufacturers accelerate development and adoption of cutting edge manufacturing technologies.  Reed also helped the state land a $100,000 first round “Investing in Manufacturing Community Partnership” (IMCP) grant to help the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) and its collaborative partners enact long-term economic development strategies intended to create a business environment that leads to well-paying, sustainable manufacturing jobs.

“Our nation has learned an important lesson: we have to put people on the shop floor because it’s not only the ability of the United States to create and innovate, it is a competitive global marketplace out there.  Unless you are actually manufacturing these products, you don’t have the advantage of learning how to do it better, how to improve it, how to be more competitive.  Think of all the things, the manufacturing products we’ve invented.  But then we’ve lost the ability to reproduce them and as a result we’ve lost the jobs.  So this whole effort is designed to rekindle that spirit of giving people the skills, the incentives, and the encouragement to go back and manufacture.  The greatest phrase we have been hearing is Made in America, so let’s make it in America,” concluded Reed.