JOURNAL TRIBUNE: Senators: Manufacturing’s where it’s at As originally appearing in The Journal Tribune
BY TAMMY WELLS
NORTH BERWICK — If you’ve served in the military and are looking to transition to the workforce or if you’re just starting out in life and are considering your options, U.S. Senators Angus King and Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, have a suggestion.
That suggestion, the senators said Friday, is manufacturing.
Making aircraft engines or repairing nuclear submarines or manufacturing parts for any number of applications is a growing part of the industrial sector.
Yes, we make things in America. And while manufacturing once made up a larger part of the nation’s economy than it has in recent years – it was 40 percent of gross domestic product 25 years ago and is about 12 percent today, according to King – manufacturing is making a come back.
King and Ayotte along with a regional business organization, the New England Council, took a private tour at Pratt & Whitney Friday and then talked to the news media about manufacturing.
“Manufacturing has a bright future in New England,” said King.
And one very necessary part of a healthy and vibrant manufacturing sector is skilled workers. This is not only to replace employees ready for retirement, but to accommodate growth at industries like Pratt & Whitney, which among other local manufacturers is ramping up for more production.
According to figures supplied by Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Maine chapter of a nationwide organization designed to strengthen competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers, companies in the state that returned a survey conducted by the Maine Department of Labor revealed there were about 1,330 vacancies in Maine’s manufacturing sector in 2014.
King said the number one issue he hears as he tours manufacturing facilities is the need to find the right employees.
“These are good paying, middle class jobs,” he said of opportunities in the manufacturing sector.
Both King and Ayotte co-sponsored the “Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2014,” which the president signed into law in December to establish a network of industry-led manufacturing institutes to help bridge the gap between research and development and improve access to cutting edge equipment and capabilities.
“We want to make sure people have a current view of manufacturing,” said Ayotte.
They spoke out Friday to help spread the word that there are jobs and training opportunities available.
One case in point is a program in Sanford through York County Community College, developed specifically to train machinists. Pratt & Whitney recently contributed surplus machinery and $90,000 to aid that program, according to company spokeswoman Cindy Szabo. The company earlier this year announced a partnership with the community college whereby 100 to 150 workers were to be hired and then trained.
Thornton Academy in Saco, recognizing the need for skilled workers, is now using an online program developed by the National Tool and Machine Association combined with internships to train and educate 30 students for the workforce. Headmaster Rene Menard who was among those on the tour Friday, said the six semester curriculum includes internships with companies like Arundel Machine, Pratt & Whitney and others to prepare students for the manufacturing workforce. Some students interned at Pratt & Whitney all summer, and several are working at the company part-time, after school. Thornton Academy is the first school in the nation to use the program.
“Students can apply what they learn on state of the art equipment,” during internships, Menard said.
Both King and Ayotte said they’re looking to get the word out about manufacturing, not only to students but to others, like those leaving the military, where a veteran can benefit from landing a good, well paying job and companies gain skilled workers.
“It helps keep manufacturing in the United States,” said Ayotte.
— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282- 1535, ext. 327 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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