Roadmap for Education Reform for Manufacturing

-  March 31, 2011, Washington, DC—The Manufacturing Institute (the Institute), the non-profit affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), has released a comprehensive blueprint for education reform designed to develop the 21st century talent critical to U.S. manufacturing and global competitiveness. 

The Roadmap to Education Reform for Manufacturing lays out six principles for innovative reform, including moving to competency-based education; establishing and expanding industry-education partnerships; infusing technology in education; creating excitement for manufacturing careers; applying manufacturing principles like “lean” to reduce education costs; and, expanding successful youth development programs.

“These principles can and should be readily applied in current federal and state legislative and budget deliberations,” said Emily DeRocco, president, The Manufacturing Institute.  “Building an educated and skilled workforce is one of the most significant actions we can take to ensure U.S. leadership in manufacturing.”

Research by The Manufacturing Institute has shown that innovation is the greatest driver of success for U.S. manufacturers and that a skilled and educated workforce is the single most critical element of innovation capacity.  A skilled workforce is also the hardest asset to acquire; during the height of the last recession, 32 percent of manufacturers cited difficulty finding skilled workers.

The roadmap is a result of the December 1, 2010 National Manufacturing Talent Development Roundtable, hosted by NAM and the Institute, where manufacturing executives, education officials, and thought leaders gathered to provide input on a national strategy to reform education in support of U.S. manufacturing.  Participants reviewed and applied some of the foremost research and writings on education reform to design an integrated strategy that will enable the education system to develop a smart, safe, and sustainable 21st century manufacturing workforce. 

“Manufacturers from across the country and in all sectors have engaged their energy, time, and resources to lead efforts in their communities and states to ensure a highly skilled and educated workforce,” said DeRocco.  “Manufacturers look to address deficits in the education system the same way they look to improve and expedite their supply chain. We have partnered with the disruptive innovators in education to develop strategies to address each critical choke point along the education continuum, ultimately to develop and advance the new workforce that will keep us competitive in the complex global economy.”

Examples of the specific recommendations are:

  • Wise investment in early childhood education;
  • The integration of nationally portable, industry-recognized credentials in high school and community college degree programs of study;
  • Educational pathways in high school and college that are standards-based, performance-based, and proficiency-based, not seat-time based;
  • More technology-driven alternatives for secondary and postsecondary education;
  • Compressed high school-college schedules via early college and dual enrollment models; and
  • More internships and mentorships to align higher education with industry competency and skills requirements.

“As a manufacturer thinking about what I can do about education, the place I have influence is where I live.  So I chose to start locally,” said Donald McCabe, senior vice president, Corning, Inc., who leads a Southern Tier, NY, science, technology, engineering, and math education initiative.  “In my area, we are at the point of influencing hundreds of young people, changing their potential future.  But, if I add that to the hundreds of thousands that my colleagues are influencing in their communities, we see widespread change and real results that ensure economic opportunity for our young people and a positive future for U.S. manufacturing.”

Roadmap to Education Reform for Manufacturing

To request hard copies of the roadmap, please contact Gardner Carrick at or (202) 637-3491.

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