Press Release

Gillibrand, Collins and Higgins Announce Legislation to Bolster Manufacturing Education at Universities and Train New York’s Workforce for 21st Century Economy

Apr 17, 2015

Tonawanda, NY – Standing together at the Praxair, Inc.’s global technology center, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman Chris Collins and Congressman Brian Higgins announced new legislation today to bolster manufacturing education at universities and train the workforce to meet the growing demands of the 21st century manufacturing sector. The Manufacturing Universities Act of 2015 is a bipartisan bill that would designate 25 universities as ‘Manufacturing Universities’ and provide schools with incentives to better align their educational offerings with the needs of modern manufacturers. The legislation will provide qualifying universities grants of $5 million per year, for a four-year period, that will help universities enhance their engineering programs to emphasize manufacturing skills, incentivize partnerships with local manufacturers, increase internship and cooperative education opportunities for students, and help more recent graduates launch new manufacturing businesses.

Manufacturing contributes $1.8 trillion to the American economy annually and manufacturing jobs pay more, contribute more jobs to the local service economy, and the sector has a higher multiplier effect than any other. Yet many manufacturers are unable to fill open positions because prospective employees do not have the requisite training. The Society of Manufacturing Engineers predicts that the number of unfilled manufacturing jobs could increase to 3 million by 2015. According to a 2014 New York Federal Reserve report, more than 30 percent of New York manufacturers said it was difficult to retain skilled workers, which had increased from 24 percent the previous year and 22 percent two years prior. According to the State University of New York (SUNY) Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) careers, which include jobs in manufacturing, are growing 2.5 times faster than other fields in New York. These jobs demand higher skills, as is proof by the fact that over 70 percent of the STEM workforce in New York State have at least a bachelor’s degree.

“If we want our local businesses to expand and grow Upstate New York’s economy, then we need to make sure our workforce has the skills and training to match,” said Senator Gillibrand. “No job should go unfilled and no company’s expansion should ever be inhibited because there aren’t enough trained workers. This legislation will equip more students with the advanced manufacturing skills and experience necessary to meet growing demand and ensure New York’s manufacturing sector remains innovative and globally competitive.”

“As a small business owner who worked in manufacturing for over 35 years, I understand the difficulty in training and finding qualified manufacturing workers,” said Congressman Collins. “To expand manufacturing in Western New York, we need to have a workforce capable of filling these skilled jobs. This bipartisan legislation will provide partnering colleges and universities the resources necessary to equip their students with the skills needed to succeed in manufacturing.”

“Western New York, with its highly dedicated workforce and top notch universities, is well positioned to lead the way in this collaborative initiative,” said Congressman Higgins.  “As manufacturing continues to evolve, workers need the tools to grow and develop the skills necessary to effectively serve in the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

“We applaud Senator Gillibrand for the introduction of the Manufacturing Universities Act of 2015. This legislation recognizes the importance of domestic advanced manufacturing and will both improve competitiveness of local production and enable rapid implementation of new, innovative technologies,” said Todd Skare, vice president and chief technology officer for Praxair, Inc.

“Access to engineers and skilled tradesmen is critical for the success of manufacturers large and small, in WNY and nationwide,” said Benjamin Rand, Chairman of the American Small Manufactures Coalition.  “The American Small Manufacturers Coalition strongly supports the efforts of Senator Gillibrand, Senator Coons and their colleagues to address this important issue.”

The legislation would help prepare more engineers for careers in innovation and advanced manufacturing by designating 25 universities as ‘Manufacturing Universities’ that will focus on advanced manufacturing and engineering. The legislation would establish a program within the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) charged with designating the 25 schools as ‘Manufacturing Universities.’ Designated schools would receive $5 million per year for four years to meet specific goals, including focusing engineering programs on manufacturing, building new partnerships with manufacturing firms, growing training opportunities, and fostering manufacturing entrepreneurship. The program would be run by the Director of the NIST, in coordination with the Secretaries of Defense and Energy, and the Director of the National Science Foundation, among others.

In order for a school to receive the ‘manufacturing university’ designation and funding, universities will be required to apply and submit a plan for goals to be achieved within four years. The plan will describe how the university will:

  • Improve engineering programs to emphasize manufacturing;
  • Increase the number of joint projects with manufacturing firms;
  • Increase the number of students who participate in for-credit internships and cooperative education;
  • Increase the number of students who receive bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees in engineering, in disciplines related to manufacturing;
  • Cover the costs of equipment and facilities necessary to carry out its manufacturing goals;
  • Increase the number of new manufacturing businesses launched by recent graduates;
  • Oversee interdisciplinary programs related to manufacturing innovation and productivity across all various university colleges, departments, and programs;
  • Designate an appropriate individual to oversee and coordinate activities as a result of this plan.  The person may be designated as a “Chief Manufacturing Officer;”
  • Structure the manufacturing engineering program to positively impact the local economy;
  • Recognize and reward faculty, including through decisions of tenure, for developing new means to increase interactions with manufacturing companies.

The legislation was introduced on March 18th by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House Representatives by Representatives Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and is cosponsored by Representatives Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), and John Katko (R-N.Y.).

This bipartisan legislation has been endorsed by Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the Precision Metalforming Association, the National Tooling & Machining Association, the University of Rochester, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the State University of New York (SUNY) System, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Syracuse University, Clarkson University, Alfred University, Dow, DuPont, and Siemens.