Education and the Workforce

The ability of manufacturers to succeed in the highly competitive global marketplace depends on access to an educated, flexible and knowledge-based workforce. American employees, in turn, need the education and skills to participate in a high performance workforce for the robust and dynamic U.S. manufacturing economy.

The United States faces the daunting challenge of ensuring that every student possesses the appropriate knowledge and skills required to succeed in the 21st-century global economy. The NAM's skills gap surveys consistently underscore how a vast majority of American manufacturers are facing a serious shortage of qualified employees, taking an increasingly negative toll on America's ability to be innovative and productive. The broadening skills gap is due to several factors, including: the retirement of the baby boomers,  advancements in technology that require new skills, increased job competition in the global marketplace, failure to cultivate a highly skilled workforce, a lack of emphasis on the necessary skill sets for advanced manufacturing and difficulty in retaining skilled talent.

Manufacturers have identified the basic or core competencies necessary for workers to succeed in virtually all entry-level jobs across sectors within manufacturing. The NAM believes that a system of industry-recognized skills credentials is necessary to reform education and training for 21st-century manufacturing by providing skills assessments, standardized curriculum requirements and nationally-portable credentials that validate the attainment of critical competencies required by industry.

                                   Adopted Winter 2012 Effective until Winter 2016

1.01. General Education Policy

Excellence in education and educational opportunities for all is the best guarantee of meeting the demands of the global economy. The NAM believes in a strong system of high quality early learning, elementary, secondary, higher education including career and technical education that effectively prepares students for the challenges of the 21st century global workforce.
Back to top                                   

1.02. Accountability

Excellence in education and educational opportunities for all is the best guarantee of meeting the demands of the global economy. The NAM believes in a strong system of high-quality early learning, elementary, secondary and higher education, including career and technical education that effectively prepares students for the challenges of the 21st-century global workforce.
Back to top                   

1.02a. Data Systems

Well-developed data systems are integral to accountability and measurement of student progress throughout the education and training system.                      

1.03. Alignment

Closer alignment of education and training programs to marketplace demands is critical to ensuring students and workers are prepared for the challenges of a high-skilled, dynamic workplace. Federal, state and local education initiatives and programs should be coordinated and developed into a comprehensive learning continuum. The learning continuum must include input from the business community to help develop strategies, programs and curriculum that address skill and labor shortages, and to help prepare students for careers in advanced manufacturing.
Back to top                 

1.03a. Curriculum

A consistent, challenging and rigorous curriculum aligned to the highest international standards""especially strong reading, math and science standards""will help prepare students with the basic academic training needed in today's workforce. Strong curriculum programs must also incorporate career and technical education content that integrates contextual and technical learning within core academic courses. Every student should graduate or receive a credential with both the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in the global economy. 

1.03b. Industry and Education Cooperation

Key to more relevant education and training programs is an improved linkage between employers and education and training institutions. Business and education partnerships must coordinate to:
"¢ Provide current information on specific areas of educational emphasis necessary to meet the current and future manpower and knowledge needs of business and industry;
"¢ Assist in the extension and improvement of career and technical education programs;
"¢ Share programs, techniques and methodology developed in industrial training activities with educational institutions; and
"¢ Encourage, support, and assist in the establishment of sound business practices in areas of school management, construction, operation and finance.

Back to top                 

1.04. Applied Learning

Effective "hands-on" learning programs are critical to helping students understand the knowledge behind technology and its application to real world environments and situations. Every student should have access to programs that integrate rigorous curriculum and learning criteria with real world scenarios. High-quality programs also incorporate career development and on-the-job training, including apprenticeship programs.

Back to top                

1.05. Teacher Quality

Effective, quality teachers and administrators are the cornerstone of any education and workforce program,  and productive teachers should be rewarded to promote continued success. Quality teaching efforts should include:
"¢ Teacher and administrator training programs, testing and certification based on rigorous, high quality standards;
"¢ Professional development programs aligned to content and student performance standards tied to improving student achievement;
"¢ Efficient alternative routes to teacher certification; and
"¢ High performance teacher standards tied to improving academic progress.

Back to top                 

1.05a. Career and Technical Education Teachers

Career and technical education teacher certification requirements should reflect the need to better integrate career and academic curriculum, and integrate career professionals into the career and technical education teaching corps.

1.05b. Counselors

Professional development and support should be provided to counselors so they are able to provide proper career guidance and counseling services for students, recognizing and emphasizing that industry-recognized certifications and two-year, four-year and advanced degrees are all valid career pathways. A counselor's responsibility is to advise students on all viable education, training and career options and to help prepare and plan the appropriate coursework.                                       

1.05c. Technology Training

Technology use in schools is critical to preparing students for a technologically advanced world. Schools and teachers should incorporate technology into everyday teaching methods to help students develop a mastery over modern technology and improve delivery of curriculum

1.06. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

The strength of U.S. manufacturing and the continued growth of high-technology industries are dependent on the availability of high-quality personnel, especially in the STEM disciplines. U.S. manufacturing leads the world in global innovation, but it is essential to inspire a continuing pipeline of students to pursue STEM careers to sustain our technological edge and compete in the global economy.

The extent and quality of education in STEM at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels is a matter of national concern. The situation is aggravated by shortages in the pool of interested students as well as shortages of qualified STEM teachers, and of faculty in universities and colleges, especially in many of the engineering disciplines.

Government, academia and industry need to intensify cooperation in programs to encourage the highest-quality STEM education at the K-12 level to fill the talent pipeline. Institutions of higher education can do more to plug the holes in the pipeline by developing better STEM retention programs for students who indicate an interest in a STEM career field.

Back to top                 

1.07. Career and Technical Education (CTE)

Critical to any student learning program is the integration of career and technical education (CTE). CTE provides students with real-world job skills and is a vital component of a 21st-century workforce. Students should take CTE courses that integrate contextual and technical learning with core academic courses.

Large numbers of students drop out of high school, and many of those who do graduate do not wish to pursue a postsecondary education. CTE programs that integrate and incorporate rigorous academic programs can promote both work readiness and a link between learning and real-life applications.

Well-developed CTE initiatives can encourage students to complete school work and pursue more advanced skills training at the postsecondary level.

Every student should graduate from high school ready for work AND ready for college. CTE programs should require the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate to ensure graduates have the core academic and workplace competencies for employment.

Industry-recognized skills certifications provide guidelines for an educational pathway to achieve credentials, ensuring that workers have the required occupational foundational competencies in health and safety, quality assurance and continual improvement, manufacturing process, development and design, and production and supply chain logistics, as well as training and credentials in specific sector and/or occupational areas in demand in their regional economies.
Schools should offer a diverse array of CTE programs that are up-to-date and reflect current technology. They should also promote CTE career programs to students and encourage completion of industry-recognized certification programs.

Back to top                 

1.08. Early Education and Learning

Access to high-quality early education and learning opportunities is integral to helping today's children prepare for the highly competitive, fast-paced global economy. A number of high-quality independent studies and reports overwhelmingly demonstrate the benefits of early learning programs in the development of a child's social and cognitive skills, creativity, and emotional resilience. These skills are often developed prior to a student's arrival in the elementary school setting, placing a great emphasis on the need for high-quality early child development and support services that can improve school readiness.

Back to top                 

1.09. Elementary and Secondary Education

Elementary and secondary education programs should improve student graduation rates, increase alignment of education programs and standards, prepare students for the challenges of college and the workforce, and be held accountable for student progress. In addition, camps, after-school programs and other extra-curricular activities can assist the STEM skills learning process.

Back to top                 

1.10. Postsecondary Education

America's system of higher education provides access and opportunity to achieve advanced training and skills for students and workers. Increased alignment, accountability and accessibility of higher education programs are important to continued economic innovation and productivity. Success in a post-secondary environment should not be defined only by graduation from a two or four-year institution, but rather by completion of an industry recognized post-secondary credential or an associate's degree.

Institutions of higher education should work in cooperation with business to develop services and supports for non-traditional students and workers seeking to increase their training or skills.

Back to top                 

1.10a. Community Colleges

Community colleges play an integral role in the link between employer needs and the academic community. Through partnerships with manufacturers and other employers, community colleges can tailor programs to meet changing employer skill demands. Closer cooperation between postsecondary institutions and employers in establishing performance objectives and curricula in occupational programs should be encouraged and supported.  

1.10b. Early College Enrollment/Dual Credit

Early college enrollment/dual credit programs serve a vital role in helping to prepare students and to establish an effective, clear transition between secondary and postsecondary education. In addition, these programs can help increase the academic rigor of a student's final years of secondary education.

Back to top                 

1.10c. Distance Learning
Advances in technology should be incorporated into education on the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels so that access to information and educational opportunities are available to those who choose to access it.

1 .11. General Workforce Policy

A skilled labor force is a basic requirement for economic growth and prosperity. Employment and retraining efforts should be based on future market demand for jobs and should be directed toward private sector needs. For their part, employees must undertake their own initiative to use the education and training programs that are available and invest their own time and resources to improve their skills.

Back to top

1 .12. Workforce Development and Training

Workforce training programs should be consolidated and coordinated into a comprehensive and adaptive system centered on the needs of regional economic development and accountable for results. The workforce system should be easily understandable, accessible and responsive to the needs of both the business community and job seekers. Increased outreach and involvement of local communities and governments should be encouraged and supported.

Partnerships between government agencies, business, training providers and institutions of higher education should be strengthened and administrative burdens and complexities reduced. In addition, the workforce system should continue to be led by the business community.

The expenditure of public funds supporting educational programs of study and job training/workforce development for students in career and technical education, unemployed workers, dislocated workers, trade-impacted workers and separating military personnel should ensure such education and job training result in attainment of nationally portable, industry-recognized skills certifications as postsecondary credentials with value in the workplace.

Back to top                 

1 .12a. Employee Development

Effective employee development, which includes training programs and education for all levels of personnel, means advancement for individuals and industry as a whole. Business efforts to further the development of employees, including apprenticeship, on-the-job, upgrading, credentialing and other types of training, should be promoted and supported through the workforce system. Greater business partnership in education and training efforts at all levels should be stimulated and incentives for increased cooperation explored.

Back to top                                 

1.12b. Lifelong Learning

Education and training do not stop once an individual graduates, completes a training or certification program, or attains a job. Workers need access to lifelong learning and training programs to enable them to attain, maintain, or upgrade skills to adapt to changing workforce needs. Job training and education programs should be streamlined, coordinated and supported to help facilitate workers' professional development and ongoing lifelong learning.

Back to top                 

1.12c. Adult Education

Adults who have not completed high school and/or lack other basic skills have limited job opportunities and the ability to climb the economic ladder. Federal programs aimed at helping these individuals must be rigorous and able to demonstrate measurable improvement in the attainment of basic skills and high school completion rates (or an equivalent) with an emphasis on further learning that may lead to industry-recognized credential(s) or other postsecondary degrees.
Back to top                 

1 .13. Dislocated Workers

Change is an integral part of a competitive, global economy. Business tries to minimize adverse effects on employees through internal company practices. If displacement is unavoidable, business works to ease the burden through activities such as job counseling, job search assistance, retraining and outplacement assistance.

Worker training, retraining and education programs can be more effective if they are better coordinated and include the following characteristics: cost-effectiveness, broad coverage, easy access, simplicity, limited red tape, individual choice, flexibility and linkages with existing programs. Unemployment programs should encourage workers to actively seek re-employment or retraining in a timely manner. Employment services must be coordinated through other workforce training programs.

Back to top                 

1 .14. Immigration

Reform of U.S. immigration law regarding legal immigrants is essential to the nation's competitiveness. Such reform should include fundamental changes in the method of determining the number of employment-based visas, creating a system with an emphasis on market demands. Reforms would improve the employment-based green card system to keep talent within the United States, streamline and simplify the procedures for the temporary or non-immigrant visa, allow for temporary workers and immigrants to meet the needs of employers without displacing American workers and create other changes to enhance flexibility in responding to demands for the skills necessary to grow America's economy.

Employers need a reliable, accurate and efficient employment eligibility verification system that also provides fair enforcement of the laws. The current employment verification system creates undue liability for employers, causes increased administrative burdens and does not deter identity fraud. There is a need for an efficient and reliable process, which should include the following principles:

"¢ A shared responsibility among employers, employees and the federal government;

"¢ Fair enforcement program for those who use the system in good faith with strong safe harbor provisions for employers;

"¢ A system that is accurate, reliable and timely;

"¢ A consistent system that provides a coherent hiring process across all states;

"¢ A verification process that is simple to use and easy to understand; and

"¢ The use of up-to-date technology to make the process as effective, efficient and safe as possible.

Adopted Winter 2012 Effective until Winter 2016