Inhofe, Whitehouse Introduce Bill to Train Next Generation of Manufacturing Workforce

U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have introduced a bipartisan proposal aimed at helping younger workers hit the ground running in manufacturing jobs that require highly specialized skills.  The Retain Innovation and Manufacturing Excellence Act would establish a pilot program to allow businesses to retain retiring employees long enough to train replacement workers – tackling a significant challenge for manufacturing companies. 

“Manufacturing is the backbone of Oklahoma and America,” Inhofe said.  “But as individuals retire from the workforce, small businesses have trouble finding and training the next generation of workers to take their place.  By creating this grant pilot program to support the training of new workers, we can make it possible for small business to effectively train new employees alongside outgoing staff—making it possible to pass on critical institutional knowledge.  Additionally, I am especially pleased that this legislation prioritizes veterans transitioning to a new career.”

“Transferring specialized skills from one generation of workers to the next is a major challenge facing manufacturers,” said Whitehouse.  “Rhode Island has a long history of manufacturing excellence dating back to the start of the Industrial Revolution.  Helping younger workers scale the learning curve will allow local businesses to continue that tradition.”

The Retain Innovation and Manufacturing Excellence Act would establish a pilot program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to allow regional Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEPs) to apply for targeted workforce training grants provided by the Department of Commerce.  The funding awarded to small manufacturers would be used to retain a departing employee for up to 90 days while they train a new employee on the unique functions of their job.  The bill would authorize up to $10 million to be used for the pilot program.

Nearly 27 percent of manufacturing workers are set to retire over the next ten years, according to the Society of Human Resource Management.  As employees with decades of experience retire, their replacements often face a steep learning curve that hampers productivity.