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Prepared Remarks of Traci Tapani on "Pushing for Investments in Workforce Development"

Washington, D.C. — On Thursday, July 22,  BLU Member Traci Tapani joined House Committee on Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott for a remote press conference with National Skills Coalition CEO Andy Van Kleunen, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Education Department Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici to highlight the importance of investing in workforce development.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of Americans out of the workforce and demonstrated the importance of providing quality training to help workers and businesses succeed in the modern economy. The American Jobs Plan proposed a $100 billion investment in workforce training programs and other services to connect workers with good-paying jobs and provide businesses a new pipeline of talented employees.

The following are the prepared remarks from BLU member Traci Tapani

An innovative and growing manufacturing base is vital to providing good jobs and securing our economic future. Labor shortages existed in the manufacturing sector prior to the pandemic, which were exacerbated by the public health crisis.

These shortages worsened, across the manufacturing industry, and businesses are still down half a million jobs compared to pre-pandemic levels. The $100b in workforce development proposed in the American Jobs Plan proposal is critical to ensuring that we have capacity to train workers to fill open jobs. Six out of 10 manufacturing jobs in Minnesota were deemed “hard-to-fill” before the pandemic, a rate that held steady during the pandemic. Hard-to-fill manufacturing jobs are more likely to be located in greater Minnesota. (65%), among small businesses with 55 or fewer employees (71%), and require a certificate or Associate’s Degree (75%).

An equitable economic recovery and a more diverse manufacturing workforce are essential goals. Both require a broad and inclusive hiring pipeline that primes young people and adults for the industry. This requires adequate resources for programs that prepare workers to enter – and progress within – manufacturing and other industries that are hiring now. These pathways are critical to dismantling biases and practices that have excluded women and people of color from manufacturing jobs.

We train all of our workers on our factory floor, but we also rely on federally funded workforce development programs to develop a talent pipeline in our region. In order for small and midsize companies to be job creators, we need public investment in training programs, which will be critical to helping small business owners get back on their feet after the pandemic.  

Investments in manufacturing, research, and innovation will create demand for rapid, short-term training and upskilling. This short-term training can lead to an immediate job or support a promotion. It can also help a person quickly develop baseline skills to enter longer-term apprenticeships. The manufacturing industry needs policymakers to dramatically expand access to high-quality, short-term training in traditional training settings and at technical and community colleges.

The pandemic has accelerated the demand for digital skills, which were already important in the modern environments of advanced and precision manufacturing.  Workers must be able to use tools such as 3D printers on the shop floor, monitor and interpret data from sensors throughout a facility, and even use “wearable tech” to receive in-the-moment training through virtual reality. New and incumbent manufacturing workers need access to foundational digital skills that serve as a baseline for adapting to ongoing technological change. They also need access to training that develops higher-level industry- and job-specific digital skills.