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Manufacturer Presses Congress on Workforce Development

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Manufacturers are working hard to create apprenticeship and workforce development programs that can help strengthen our industry, close the skills gap and prepare new workers for exciting, fulfilling careers.

Last week, Leah Curry, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, urged Congress to take up these priorities when she testified to the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workforce Safety. Curry is also an honoree of The Manufacturing Institute’s 2013 STEP Ahead Awards, which recognizes outstanding women leaders in the industry, and a longstanding member of the MI Board of Advisors.

In her remarks, Curry drew on her own experiences to illustrate how apprenticeship programs can help prepare workers to take on a new career. Here are some of the highlights.

Delivering early exposure: “I came across the idea of pursuing technology as a career by chance after already embarking on a serious course of post‐secondary studies. If I was exposed to technical or STEM programs before college, I would have landed on my pathway much [sooner]. Since 2010, Toyota has provided $3.5 million to 184 K–12 schools in Indiana and across the country to implement Project Lead the Way programs that provide students with more STEM education and career pathways.”

Emphasizing hands-on experience: “Combining classroom learning with on‐the‐job experiences is a powerful way to learn, particularly in manufacturing. In states where Toyota operates manufacturing plants, Toyota has collaborated with local community colleges to develop the highly successful advanced manufacturing technician (or AMT) program.”

  • “Nationally about 400 employers pool talent from 32 chapters in 12 states in what is known collectively as the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education or FAME USA. FAME USA is now led by The Manufacturing Institute, and it is quickly becoming America’s premier homegrown manufacturing education network.”

Promoting diversity: “We cannot overstate the importance of intentionality around bringing historically underrepresented people into STEM careers. Toyota is collaborating with the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity on its ‘Make the Future’ program, which provides tools to help educators, counselors, administrators and recruiters increase the participation and persistence of women and other historically underrepresented student groups in education paths that prepare them for advanced manufacturing careers.”

The path forward: In her testimony, Curry emphasized two critical policy recommendations.

  • Combine education and training: First, Curry urged Congress to consider workforce development policies in combination with education policies. “If education policies are not flexible enough to allow students to explore various pathways,” said Curry, “students may ultimately bypass even the best workforce development opportunities.”
  • Reauthorize WIOA: Second, she called for reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. “In doing so, the committee should continue to allow for greater private-sector participation in the workforce system,” said Curry. “The FAME USA system proves that employers want to and can drive workforce development to new heights.”

Learn more: Click here to find out more about the FAME USA program, founded by Toyota and now operated by the MI.

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