Other lawmakers in both parties are trying to address the skills gap in the labor force. A 2012 study by the Deloitte consulting firm found that industry could not fill 600,000 positions because workers lacked training.
One proposal by Brown and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would expand on partnerships of businesses, agencies and colleges to focus on job training for specific industry sectors. Another bipartisan proposal by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., would encourage development of industry-recognized training credentials.
Last spring, the National Association of Manufacturers made the case for bold measures to ease regulations, slash taxes and broaden trade to fuel a manufacturing revival. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio called for similar measures in June to “unleash our nation of builders.”
Tom Duesterberg, a researcher at the Aspen Institute, said favorable changes and trends might create 3.7 million manufacturing jobs by 2025.
With both parties deadlocked on big bills, such a scenario seems unlikely, for now. Still, Jay Timmons, NAM’s president and CEO, said modest proposals could provide “a critical path towards bipartisan agreement.”
But with or without such action by Congress, Robert LaLonde, an economist at the University of Chicago, envisions slow growth in manufacturing employment.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 204,000 jobs in October, including 19,000 jobs in manufacturing. But it also said manufacturing employment had been roughly flat since February.
“It will grow, but it won’t grow by much,” LaLonde said.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.