Today, at Fryer Machine Systems in Patterson, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer joined Putnam County business leaders and representatives of Westchester Community College to launch a plan that ensures local community colleges are working to match student skills with local high-tech manufacturing openings. The legislation called the America Works Act restructures the way that workforce training programs are financed: under the bill, programs that provide portable, industry-recognized credentials to graduates will receive priority in federal funding.
Schumer highlighted that companies like Fryer Machine Systems, a company that makes high-quality machine products in the aerospace and automotive markets, have openings including machinists, testing jobs and process engineers. Fryer, a family-owned company, has cited a lack of skilled workers prepared for these jobs in Putnam and Westchester counties. The America Works Act would specifically change the path of federal funds for designated programs in the Carl D. Perkins Vocational-Technical Education Act, Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to match local skills with local industry openings.
"In the lower Hudson Valley, high-tech manufacturers need qualified workers to fill vacant jobs, like machinists and technicians, and help spur innovation and competition," said Schumer. "One way to do that is to ensure that federal funding for job training is being used effectively, and establishes universal credentials that give students the skills that match local industry needs, and I'm pushing my Senate colleagues to pass the America Works Act to do just that. This plan would not add a dime to federal spending and instead revamp existing programs to help target worker training initiatives that will bring Putnam County employers like Fryer Machine Systems the highly trained workers they need to boost competition and jobs in the Hudson Valley."
Schumer stood at Fryer Machine Systems and was joined by company officials, Putnam County Executive Mary Ellen O'Dell, HVEDC Chair Larry Goetlib, Ann Rubenzahl, Assistant Dean of Continuing Education at Westchester Community College, and other business owners and officials from Putnam County. Schumer also stood with representatives from Westchester Community College who are supportive of this initiative, and that received $149,500 from a Department of Labor worker training grant that Schumer fought to secure for a consortium of SUNY community colleges this fall.
Schumer highlighted that a report by Deloitte Consulting and the Manufacturing Institute showed that up to 600,000 jobs are going unfilled across the country because employers cannot find workers with the skills they need to fill these jobs. Fryer Machine Systems in Putnam County is in need of skilled workers in positions including technicians, engineers, machinists and product testing. The National Association of Manufacturers cites a study in which 74% of companies report a lack of available workers for "skilled production" positions, like those at Fryer, causing a negative impact on their ability to expand. At the same time, the New York State Labor Department puts unemployment rates for January 2013 in Putnam-Westchester-Rockland Counties at 7.8%.
The America Works Act's goal is to help reconcile those two realities, and would incentivize the use of industry-recognized standards from existing certification and credentialing programs to update curricula of community colleges and job-training centers. The goal is to get students enrolled in welding, machining, computer engineering and other advanced manufacturing programs to achieve national certification while earning their degrees. This will help high-tech employers close the skills gap and improve Americans' access to good-paying jobs in the domestic manufacturing industry. Additionally, workers would learn skill sets that industries and employers need, and employers would be able to more easily identify potential employees with the requisite abilities. Instead of adding to federal spending, this legislation sponsored by Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) would make spending more efficient by ensuring certain federal job training and career education programs give priority to programs that provide an industry-recognized and nationally portable credential.
The America Works Act modifies the way that federal funds flow to designated programs in the Carl D. Perkins Vocational--Technical Education Act (Perkins), Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to allow students and workers to get credentials that prepare them for specific industries, that will be applicable across state lines, and that are widely recognized. The legislation modifies the Workforce Investment Act so that adults and youths at one-stop career centers will be encouraged to consider and prioritize programs offering portable, national, industry-recognized credentials, as deemed appropriate by the local workforce board. The bill modifies the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act by directing states and localities to prioritize portable, national, industry-recognized credentials within their plans, and to describe how participants prioritized these programs in the use of those funds. The bill directs the Secretary of Labor to give priority consideration to programs offering portable, national, industry-recognized credentials within the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act.
Schumer highlighted that Westchester Community College would be perfectly suited to develop the portable universal credentials that the America Works Act promotes. In fact, Schumer noted that he helped secure a $14 million grant for a consortium of SUNY community colleges in the fall, of which Westchester Community College received $149,500 that has spurred the development of several new programs to address the skills gap in the Hudson Valley. Under this grant, Westchester Community College will create a T.E.A.M. (Training and Education in Advanced Manufacturing) initiative and will recruit students to the entry-level advanced manufacturing courses that will provide them with an entry-level certificate and a career path to advanced manufacturing employment. For example, Westchester Community College offers a Manufacturing Skill Standards Council's (MSCC) Certified Production Technician (CPT) certificate, which verifies a student or worker has mastered essential production modules in Safety, Quality Practices & Measurement, Manufacturing Processes & Production and Maintenance Awareness. The CPT is applicable to all entry-level jobs in all sectors in manufacturing. This is a perfect example of what the AMERICA Works Act would promote at Westchester Community College and throughout the country. Schumer noted that this plan would reward WCC's efforts by prioritizing it for federal funding.
Fryer Machine Systems manufactures a diverse line of over 50 models of high quality machine tools in our Patterson, NY. In addition Fryer produces customized machines for a number of major companies in the aerospace and automotive markets.