U.S. manufacturing: Obama launches $26 million competition

June 7, 2012

The Obama Administration recently announced a $26 million multi-agency Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge as part of an effort to stimulate job creation and progress in the sector through public-private partnerships.

According to a release from the Small Business Association, the collaboration and coordinated investments will help to catalyze and leverage private capital, promote cluster-based development in areas across the U.S. and build an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

"This $26 million Accelerator Challenge is yet another example of the Obama Administration's commitment to supporting American manufacturers in building things here and selling them everywhere," said U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson. "We are so pleased to join with our federal agency partners to further strengthen the American manufacturing sector, which creates high quality, good paying jobs.

The focus of the program is on advanced manufacturing, according to the release, as this sector will be the most relevant in the modern economy and sustainable due to increased investment and research and development (R&D) focus.

"The innovative products developed as a result of this federal grant program will help our economy maintain its global competitive advantage, while also creating jobs at home," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

The release noted that manufacturing accounts for 70 percent of private sector R&D, along with roughly 60 percent of exports from the U.S.

This type of innovation can only be supported by a more educated and highly trained workforce, which, according to WBEZ 91.5 Chicago, is emerging thanks to secondary schools and specialized programs designed to fill the growing number of manufacturing jobs – 500,000 new positions created over the past 25 months.

Positions like machine operator specialists are getting much more complex, as individuals working in these jobs need to be able to perform 30-to-40 tasks in a given shift. While computers and increased use of automation has eased some of the work for people in these roles, there is a need for a technical knowledge, according to the news outlet.

Business strategy is increasingly shifting toward efficiency, highlighting the need for more skilled workers to lower overall costs.

"As President Obama made clear, an American economy built to last will depend on American manufacturing, American energy and skills for American workers," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.