This piece was originally published in the April 2018 issue of electroindustry.
Congresswoman Torres, who represents the 35th District of California, chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Budget Task Force and co-chairs the New Democrat Coalition 21st Century Infrastructure Task Force.
As the country’s unemployment rate nears four percent, we have an opportunity to ensure that a full-time job can lead to a middle-class life for all Americans. As one of the fastest-growing fields, manufacturing will be a powerful job creator—but over the next 10 years, more than half of all those new jobs created are expected to go unfilled because of a lack of trained workers.
According to a 2011 survey by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, 83 percent of manufacturers reported a moderate to severe shortage of available skilled positions, with 76 percent anticipating a worsening shortage over the next three to five years. The manufacturing industry contributes $2 trillion to the U.S. economy. It’s clear that preparing America’s workers for future jobs should be at the heart of any proposed infrastructure plan from Congress.
That’s why as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Budget Task Force and co-chair of the New Democrat Coalition 21st Century Infrastructure Task Force, I’m pushing for policies that bolster the nation’s manufacturing industry and create good-paying jobs here in the U.S.
Last year, I embarked on a “Made in the 35th” manufacturing tour of my district to speak directly with local manufacturers. Everywhere I went, I saw businesses that were ready to expand but were unable to find skilled workers to hire. That’s where programs like the Industrial Technical Learning Center at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga come in. The learning center partners with California Steel Industries to equip students with the skills and training employers need. The program aids approximately 3,000 students in their pursuit of industry-recognized and nationally portable licenses, certifications, and degrees. It’s an important step in the right direction, but we know there’s still more we can do to fill the severe employment gap in advanced manufacturing around the country.
One way we can do that is by connecting workers—especially those who are newly displaced—and educational institutions with manufacturers to develop training programs. I introduced the Job Opportunities Between our Shores (JOBS) Act to authorize the secretary of labor to initiate pilot projects between advanced manufacturers and local community colleges, state colleges, and workforce investment boards to facilitate education and training programs in advanced manufacturing.
Partnerships created through the JOBS Act would open the gates for apprenticeships, internships, and other direct hiring pipelines for thousands of businesses and students across the country. These newly trained workers would then be able to find positions in high-demand careers like aerospace, advanced material manufacturing, and robotics. This comprehensive model will help American workers keep up with the demands of the field.
Advanced manufacturing will be the engine powering the nation’s infrastructure projects, generating innovation, and creating new careers as the industry expands. As a member of the House Manufacturing Caucus, I know how critical investment in our workforce is to keeping the nation’s manufacturing industry strong. I’ll keep working to provide America’s workers with the tools they need to succeed and compete in our 21st-century economy.
 Center for Manufacturing Research, 2011 Skills Gap Report, www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/Research/Skills-Gap-in-Manufacturing/2011-Skills-Gap-Report/2011-Skills-Gap-Report.aspx