By Ken Schramko, IPC senior director, North American government relations
The chronic shortage of skilled workers is the top business challenge facing the electronics industry worldwide. Our skilled workers are aging and retiring faster than we can hire replacements. A large majority of our members report that their inability to find skilled workers is limiting their growth. Too often, today’s rising workers lack essential knowledge and skills including math, basic technology skills, and problem-solving.
Given these facts, IPC is building on our strengths and making workforce development one of our top priorities. We’ve pledged to develop 1 million new training and workforce development opportunities in the United States over the next five years; and we launched the IPC Workforce Champions initiative to engage our member companies in that effort.
Here’s an overview of the government policy landscape that we’re working to shape.
New U.S. Government Advisory Board
In the United States, last week a newly formed advisory committee to the federal government held its first meeting. The members of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, include representatives of eight companies, three industry associations, four universities, three state and local governments, and several nonprofits, think tanks, and a trade union. The board will serve from now through July 2020.
During the meeting, Ms. Trump outlined four goals of the board:
1. Develop a robust campaign to promote multiple pathways to good-paying jobs, dispelling the myth that there is only one path to a successful career, i.e. a four-year college degree.
2. Improve the availability of high-quality, transparent, and timely data to better inform students and educators, as well as match American workers to American jobs.
3. Modernize candidate recruitment and training practices to expand the pool of job applicants that employers are looking to hire.
4. Measure and encourage employer-led training and investments, such as those being made by IPC.
You may recall that IPC President John Mitchell and several IPC member companies were invited to the White House last October to discuss this issue with President Trump, Ivanka Trump and other senior policy officials. Rest assured we have kept those communications channels open and are continuing to engage with the administration on this issue.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, there is strong bipartisan support for addressing the workforce shortage. Last summer, Congress passed and the president signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (the Perkins CTE Act), which IPC strongly supported and continues to support in its implementation phase.
In the current session of Congress, attention is turning to work-based learning programs and the employment visa backlog.
For example, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Drew Ferguson (R-GA) recently reintroduced the Promoting Apprenticeship with Regional Training Networks for Employers’ Required Skills (PARTNERS) Act last month. This legislation would promote registered apprenticeships and other work-based learning programs for small and medium-sized businesses through the establishment and support of industry-based partnerships. It also would provide funds to states to award grants to eligible partnerships.
Meanwhile, some lawmakers are working to make it easier for companies to access high-skilled immigrants. Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Ken Buck (R-CO) recently introduced the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which would eliminate the per-country immigration caps that cause backlogs in the employment-based green card system.
Now Seeking Workforce Champions in the EU, Too
Later this month, IPC is preparing to launch its Workforce Champions initiative in Europe with a pledge to provide education, training and career opportunities to more than 500,000 Europeans over the next five years.
As part of the preparations, IPC’s European team has been networking and developing relationships with the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP); the European Alliance for Apprenticeships; EURASHE, representing technical education institutions; EUROCHAMBRES, representing regional Chambers of Commerce; and the STEM Alliance, bringing together Industries, ministries of education, and other stakeholders to promote STEM education and careers to young Europeans.
Please stay tuned for more news on the European front and let us know if you want to get involved.
IPC Members: Help Your Industry and Yourselves!
Over the last two years, IPC has doubled down on its longstanding commitment to help address the chronic skills gaps affecting the electronics industry. Beyond the efforts noted above, IPC also has launched the IPC Education Foundation to expand the number of education and training opportunities in the electronics industry.
Just over the horizon, IPC’s annual U.S. advocacy days in Washington (May 21-22) and Brussels in the Fall will provide opportunities for IPC members to tell government policymakers our views on education and workforce development. IPC encourages our member companies to send senior executives to participate in these important events to help advance our industry’s interests.
Please contact me at KenSchramko@ipc.org in the U.S. or in the EU if you have any questions or information to share on workforce issues. Our success depends in large part on the guidance and support we receive from IPC members like you!