Bipartisan ‘Manufacturing Universities’ legislation passes Senate Committee

Provision would strengthen U.S. engineering programs to meet 21st century manufacturing demands

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee passed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which included important bipartisan legislation that will help U.S. universities strengthen their engineering programs to meet the demands of the modern manufacturing industry. Manufacturing Universities authorizes the Defense Department to support industry-relevant, manufacturing-focused, engineering training at U.S. universities.  Institutions would be selected through a competitive grant-based process and would be required to better align their educational offerings with the needs of modern U.S. manufacturers. The legislation, led by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

“I’m thrilled the Senate Armed Services Committee came together in a bipartisan way to advance our legislation that will help students across the country acquire the skills they need for jobs in today’s advanced manufacturing industries,” said Senator Coons. “Manufacturing has transformed over the years but job training has failed to keep up, leaving too many positions unfilled. We need to better equip Delawareans and students across the country for today’s advanced manufacturing jobs, and Manufacturing Universities will do just that. It will ensure that our country is offering higher education that meets the needs of 21st century manufacturing. I urge the Senate to pass this legislation as soon as possible to give young people the skills necessary to excel in this growing field.”

“Advanced manufacturing is a growing and thriving industry in New Hampshire, and we need to take steps to strengthen our workforce to meet the demand for highly skilled workers in this sector,” said Senator Ayotte. “I’m pleased that the Committee adopted our amendment today. I’ll continue to push for its full passage so we can help our students acquire the skills they need to meet the demand for the good-paying, manufacturing job opportunities in New Hampshire, while also giving our universities more tools to spur innovation and use cutting-edge technology to grow this vibrant sector of our economy.”

“As the demand for a highly skilled workforce continues to grow, I’m proud to have worked across party lines to support the Manufacturing Universities Act,” said Senator Baldwin. “This bipartisan legislation will strengthen engineering programs and help ensure that our universities offer courses that can better prepare students for our 21st century advanced manufacturing economy. It will also give students the tools they need to carry on Wisconsin’s tradition of making things, and move our economy forward. It is my hope that the Senate will take action on this legislation and invest in our Made in America economy.”

“The Manufacturing Universities legislation would give our universities access to new resources that can help them prepare more engineers, more product designers, more innovators, and more men and women to drive our economy forward,” said Senator Gillibrand. “No job should go unfilled and no company’s expansion should ever be inhibited because there aren’t enough trained workers ready to work. I’m pleased this bill was included in the NDAA, and I look forward to fighting for its final passage on the Senate floor.”

“This is an incredibly important issue for our states’ institutions of higher education and manufacturing industries,” said Senator Graham. “This amendment will foster entrepreneurship and innovation by prioritizing advanced manufacturing, research, and industry collaboration.  I look forward to working on additional, innovative ways to ensure our manufacturing sector thrives and maintains its international competitiveness in the years to come.”

Manufacturing Universities would establish a program within the Department of Defense charged with designating schools as ‘Manufacturing Universities.’ Designated schools would receive federal grant funding to meet specific goals, including focusing engineering programs on development of industry-relevant advanced manufacturing skills, building new partnerships with manufacturing firms, growing hands-on training opportunities for students, and fostering manufacturing entrepreneurship. The program would be run by the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with other federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, The National Institute of Standards and Technology, The Department of Energy, and the Department of Education.

The original bipartisan standalone legislation S. 771 was endorsed by Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the Precision Metalforming Association, the National Tooling & Machining Association, the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Clemson University, University of South Carolina, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Drexel University, the University of Missouri System, the University of Illinois, the University of California, Davis, the University of California, Irvine, Boston University, the University of Rochester, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the State University of New York (SUNY) System, Kent State University, the University of Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the University of Connecticut, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Clarkson University, The Ohio State University, Dow, DuPont, and Siemens.