Congresswoman Brenda L. Lawrence on Monday, June 1, formally introduced H.Res. 286 to highlight the need for more vocational education and apprenticeship programs in Michigan’s K-12 schools. The resolution urges federal support of educational opportunities for children who are not college-bound and who will need to earn a living wage and become part of an industry that allows for growth and upward mobility shortly after graduating from high school. Rep. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) said he supports the resolution.

“Those of us in Congress must do whatever we can to ensure that our schools are able to provide vocational training and apprenticeships for our high school students who demonstrate an aptitude and a desire for skilled trades. We need to return that sense of pride Americans once had in earning an honest wage through their chosen vocation. We must promote our trade schools and our universities equally, ” Congresswoman Brenda L. Lawrence said. “This resolution addresses those needs while also addressing the needs of American manufacturers struggling to hire skilled trade workers.”

According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), more than 80 percent of American manufacturers report difficulty in finding skilled workers to fill open jobs. Additionally, Accenture and The Manufacturing Institute conducted a joint study on manufacturing skills in the U.S. market in 2014 that found:

  • More than 50 percent of companies reported plans to increase US-based production by at least five percent in the next five years;
  • However, more than 75 percent of manufacturers reported a moderate to severe shortage of skilled resources;
  • US manufacturers faced reduced earnings of up to 11 percent annually due to increased production costs and revenue losses related to skilled workforce shortages.

Congresswoman Lawrence’s resolution promotes the replication of successful vocational and apprenticeship programs, such as those used in Kentucky, South Carolina, and in Michigan’s 14th District. Oakland Schools has established four technical campuses (OSTC), including one in Pontiac, which divides students into Engineering and Popular clusters. Engineering Clusters offer engineering and emerging technology classes, while Popular Clusters focus on subjects ranging from biotechnology to environmental sciences, and from construction to cosmetology.

Rep. Lawrence’s resolution has received universal support from labor, education, and state leaders.

“We need to support the skilled trades because they support and build our communities,” said Rick Blocker, President Metro AFL-CIO. “Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence’s resolution provides the support needed for these jobs, which offer good pay and opportunities for Americans to not only survive, but to thrive. This resolution provides an opportunity to help young people gain careers and escape crippling debt through skilled trades.”

“As a former journeyperson machine repair machinist, I see the intrinsic value in investing in our skilled workforce and I wholeheartedly support Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence’s efforts to ensure that investment occurs,” said Brenda Carter, Vice President of the Pontiac School District Board of Education. “Pontiac School District is proud of its collaboration with the Michigan Building and Construction Trades. We are in a pilot partnership program offering our high school students this valuable opportunity. We hope that our innovative partnership program becomes the model utilized through the state.”

“As Michigan’s economy slowly recovers, federal and state officials must be aggressive in leading the effort to train our citizens to fill available skilled trade jobs,” said Michigan State Rep. Jeremy Moss. “I applaud Congresswoman Lawrence for calling on public and private resources to be made available to put our unemployed and underemployed residents back to work.”

Congresswoman Lawrence is working with these and other stakeholders to reverse the national trend that has undercut America’s hard-working middle class by failing to invest in and value its skilled American workforce.

“A strong vocational workforce is the foundation for the success of America’s middle class, and America’s middle class is the foundation for the success of our entire nation and economy,” Congresswoman Lawrence added. “It’s time to fight for our hard-working middle class and to invest in American workers by providing a complete range of educational opportunities, which includes vocational education and apprenticeship programs.”