Washington gets earful from auto suppliers on skilled worker shortage

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: October 5, 2012 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Public Policy, Automotive, Machinery

WASHINGTON (Oct. 5, 2 p.m. ET) — Steve Braig, president and CEO of Trexel Inc., was among automotive suppliers who delivered this message to senior Obama administration officials in the White House recently: American manufacturing needs more skilled workers.

Braig said he was invited, about two weeks before the event, to attend the Sept. 28 White House Business Council meeting titled “American Economic Competitiveness Series: Auto Supply Chain.” Other panel members included eight CEOs of automotive component suppliers, a couple of material suppliers, representatives of trade associations, the United Autoworkers and environmental and energy groups.

Braig gave his account of the four-hour meeting in a detailed email and follow-up interview with Plastics News. Trexel, in Wilmington, Mass., developed MuCell molding technology.

According to Braig, acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank opened the meeting by highlighting how the government bailout of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC saved jobs at the automakers and their suppliers. She added that the aggressive improvement in Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards will spur innovation that will create a lot of good-paying jobs, to meet the higher average of 54.5 mpg by 2025.

“They said we still have these millions of unemployed and underemployed people, and this will help them get jobs,” Braig said.

“That was met with instant push-back by the panel,” Braig said. It prompted a discussion of a skilled-worker shortage. The industrialists said the auto industry is already at full employment when it comes to skilled technical people — and needs more of them.

“Although there is availability of Ph.D./doctorate type of researchers, there is an immense shortage of qualified engineers,” Braig said. The manufacturing officials also noted the lack of trained welders, electromechanical technicians, machinists and other skilled trades.

“Everybody brought this up,” he said. “That was widely discussed.”

Braig stressed that he does think the movement to more fuel-efficient cars will help the plastics industry, by reducing the weight of cars and promoting new reinforced-plastic structural components. And the automotive people at the White House event appreciated the Obama administration’s focus on manufacturing, including the bailouts during the severe recession, he said.

But Braig said: “Our country simply lacks the knowledge and availability of qualified technical resources to bring back many of the migrated manufacturing activity, or to create substantial new manufacturing activities.”

Union leaders at the White House meeting cited their efforts in training. While the manufacturing officials praised that work, they said it does not go far enough.

Braig said the workforce discussion ended with a call for the federal government to take a more active role in advancing math and science in elementary and secondary schools, and “to create more vocational training as an alternate to college education.”

Braig said the group agreed that the skilled-worker issue is a long-term problem. “There is no quick fix,” he said.

Another discussion centered on the federal R&D tax credit, to help companies conduct research and development. Here, Braig said Germany and other major competitors have generous financial grant programs to promote R&D, and reward companies that work with universities.

The U.S. government treats the R&D tax credit like a political football, routinely letting it expire and then debating whether to bring it back. Industry wants the government to make it permanent.

“We’re competing against the Germans and the Japanese in the automotive industry,” Braig said.


Comments

Washington gets earful from auto suppliers on skilled worker shortage

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: October 5, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Sipa buys Automa's PET bottle machinery business

November 28, 2014 10:02 am ET

Sipa SpA has acquired the injection-stretch-blow molding (ISBM) equipment business of Automa SpA. No transaction price was disclosed in the...    More

Image

SPI hopes to build on EPS recycling

November 26, 2014 6:00 am ET

Successfully recycling expanded polystyrene can be a challenge, there's no doubt about that. EPS, however, has value, is in demand and deserves to be ...    More

Image

Visteon in talks to sell its stake in Halla Visteon Climate Control JV

November 26, 2014 9:07 am ET

Visteon Corp. confirmed this morning that it is in discussions with a private equity firm to sell its stake in South Korean joint venture Halla...    More

Image

2014 US machinery shipments up 6 percent

November 25, 2014 5:17 pm ET

Through the first nine months of 2014 U.S. shipments of primary plastics equipment — for injection molding, blow molding and extrusion —...    More

Image

Globalization brings sizable growth, primarily in Asia

November 25, 2014 1:40 pm ET

In 1990, the year after Plastics News published our first issue, there were 33,000 injection molding machines sold worldwide. Fast forward to 2013, an...    More

Market Reports

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 billion plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events