October 08, 2021
Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) joined Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to reintroduce a bipartisan proposal to help small businesses equip the next generation of manufacturers with the technical skills required for the job. S.2977, the Retain Innovation and Manufacturing Excellence (RIME) Act of 2021 would establish a pilot program to allow businesses to retain retiring employees long enough to train a replacement and transfer their institutional knowledge – tackling a growing challenge for manufacturing companies.
The RIME Act would establish a pilot program through 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 specific functions of their job. The bill would authorize up to $10 million to be used for the pilot program.
“Oklahoma’s backbone is the manufacturing industry,” Inhofe said. “As small business workers retire, it is difficult to find the next generation to take their place—especially as we face an unprecedented labor shortage. By creating this pilot program to support the training of new workers, small businesses will be able to 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.”
“Rhode Island has a proud history as a leader in American manufacturing dating back to the Industrial Revolution,” said Whitehouse. “Local manufacturers tell me one of their biggest challenges is recruiting and training a new generation of workers with the specialized skills required to bring the industry into the future. Learning on the job is the best way for workers to learn the technical skills that advanced manufacturers need, and this bill would help them do just that.”
Small-size manufacturers have for decades relied on a generation of workers now beginning to retire. A recent survey by the Manufacturing Institute estimated that nearly half of all job openings in manufacturing will go unfilled between 2018 and 2028 as a consequence of experienced workers retiring and the resulting skills gap with younger replacements.
Senators Inhofe and Whitehouse first introduced the RIME Act in December of 2018. Text of the legislation can be found here.