Will Manufacturing Universities Fill the Skills Gap?

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New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is championing a bill that would encourage universities to align their curricula with the needs of manufacturers. Under the Manufacturing Universities Act of 2015, 25 qualified institutions would receive grants of $5 million per for four years. The program would be administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the U.S. Department of Commerce.
During recent visits to Plattsburgh and Rochester, Senator Gillibrand explained how these “manufacturing universities” could serve as engines of economic growth. By helping colleges to strengthen their engineering programs, the Manufacturing Universities Act of 2015 “would help prepare more engineers, more product designers, more innovators and more men and women to drive our economy forward,” she said.
Economic development is important, but will these “manufacturing universities” fill the skills gap, especially for mid-level positions that require more than a year of post-high school training? Some analysts believe that industry – not education – must take the lead. For example, in an April 2014 article for Inc. magazine, Cait Murphy examines the success of employer-sponsored apprenticeship programs.
As Murphy writes, the State of South Carolina has helped manufacturers such as United Tool and Die to develop their own training programs and fill their own talent pipelines. Without the help of Apprenticeship Carolina, said Jeremy Arnett, United Tool and Die’s production administration manager, “I don’t know if we would have got off the ground.”
South Carolina offers employers only a modest $1000 tax credit, but participation rates keep climbing. Since its inception, the program has grown from 90 to 630 companies. “Apprenticeship is an integral part of the reason that manufacturing is on the rise in South Carolina,” says program director Brad Neese. As Congress debates the Manufacturing Universities Act of 2015, which approach to filling the skills gap will prevail?
Image Credit: © shaiith/Dollar Photo Club


2 thoughts on “Will Manufacturing Universities Fill the Skills Gap?”

  1. For New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to champion a bill that would encourage universities to assist with the needs of manufacturers is all well and good, but Ms. Murphy from Inc. magazine appears to realize the true requirements of the industry. We need young people to become interested and valued prior to hitting the university level. Get young students hands dirty in manufacturing, learn a skill, have a great work ethic and you’ll have a job for life. You don’t need a college education to develop a wonderful skill that will be a great career for a lifetime.

  2. Why is Gillibrand not helping and pushing existing programs that are in place by NIST? What about MEP Program? In my opinion we just need to strengthen the programs we already have in place and where is the data that says this will net positive results? I would love to discuss this further with anyone that wants to listen.

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