Omar Nashashibi Omar Nashashibi

Government, Automation and Job Training

June 9, 2023

Omar Nashashibi is a founding partner with The Franklin Partnership, a bipartisan lobbying firm based in Washington, D.C., and a key component of PMA’s One Voice advocacy efforts.

In the most recent survey of PMA members, 92 percent of companies reported job openings, compared to 2014 when only 75 percent of shops told us that they had positions available. Back then, PMA would lobby Capitol Hill and the White House on the need for qualified employees—those who had defined skills. Today, however, manufacturers can only hope a person shows up for an interview, let alone makes it through the probationary period. As a result, many metal formers, with PMA support, have taken on an increased role in workforce development as they work to train, and then upskill, employees, often to only see those workers quickly leave. 

Causing the most frustration for human-resource professionals, other than interviewee no-shows: offering a position to a promising candidate, only to be “ghosted” by that candidate. When we asked PMA member companies why a prospective employee declined a job offer, “did not respond” ranked third among the reasons cited. The top response: “Took higher pay elsewhere.” 

Small businesses whose products compete globally and wages compete locally face significant pay-scale challenges. An employer can spend thousands of dollars to train a single employee only to see the employee leave for a larger competitor or a union shop. To address these challenges, 95 percent of surveyed companies tell us that they now offer a higher wage. Manufacturers now practice an all-of-the-above strategy—from increased wages to additional inhouse training, and outreach to immigrant, youth and nonviolent offender groups.  

Policymakers in Washington, D.C., have heard the message, with many now focused on manufacturing operations and careers—perhaps more so than at any time since World War II. PMA continues to work with lawmakers on legislation that would allow the use of Section 529 accounts to pay for credentials and certifications; a bill to better inform borrowers about the costs of college and career opportunities; and increasing resources for workforce recruitment, training and placement. 

During the past few years, PMA successfully lobbied Congress to increase the funding for career and technical-education programs; to include private businesses and trade associations in manufacturing clusters that receive grants; and to support a local manufacturing ecosystem with workforce being a key component. A law passed last year, for example, requires the 16 existing Manufacturing USA Institutes to incorporate workforce development into their missions. And, we increasingly see grants for goods—from semiconductors to renewables—requiring applicants to include plans for training programs.

However, the challenge remains finding enough people to train, leading to an increasing number of manufacturers implementing automation in their facilities. Yet as the push to add automation on shop floors increases, the DoL estimates that roughly 10,000 jobs remain open annually for industrial-robotics mechanics and automation engineers.  

This begs the question: What can governments do to support industry at a time of workforce-recruitment challenges and growing use of automation? In most states, workforce-training programs are open to any projects that focus on in-demand skills, with virtually every state including automation and robotics in that category.  

PMA maintains a database ( fund-your-training), which lists some of the current and recurring grants and tax incentives—sorted by state, regional and federal—available for manufacturers and local groups. 

Recent examples of state grants include South Texas College, which received a $254,000 Texas Talent Connection grant to expand its Maintenance and Repair Program for Automated Technologies training program, for advanced manufacturing credentialing. And, Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development awarded more than $473,000 in Technical Education Equipment Grants to school districts to expand their advanced-manufacturing education programs, including automation and robotics.

Additionally, the Illinois Apprenticeship Education Expense Tax Credit Program provides employers with as much as a $3500 tax credit for qualified educational expenses associated with qualifying apprentices. Also, Michigan’s Going Pro Talent fund recently closed its application period for the Going Pro Talent Fund, which provides awards to employers to assist in training, developing and retaining current and newly hired employees that lead to credentials for transferable skills recognized by industry.

At the federal level, in 2022 the Defense Department awarded $30 million across six states for projects including automation and robotics, under its Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program. In January 2023, the National Science Foundation announced research funding available for manufacturing-systems integration to include automation.

The U.S. House of Representatives has begun the process of renewing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act, major legislation on which PMA lobbied to help support career and technical-education programs, recruitment efforts and increased industry involvement in workforce policy.
There also is no shortage of focus on manufacturing on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers introduced more than 300 bills through the first five months of 2023 related to manufacturing.

It took years of work for PMA and its members to create this type of bipartisan support for the metal forming industry, including lobbying lawmakers, speaking with reporters and flying members to Washington, D.C. All of these efforts have begun to pay off.

Industry-Related Terms: Forming
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Precision Metalforming Association

Technologies: Management, Training


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