President Obama introduced his $3.99 trillion budget proposal earlier this week. There are several items in particular that caught my eye—most notably, it provides resources to expand the National Network of Manufacturing Institutes. “To create jobs, continue growth in the industry and strengthen America’s leadership in advanced manufacturing technology,” the budget calls for creating seven new national manufacturing innovation hubs in 2016, along with funding required to complete a national network of 45 such manufacturing institutes.


“Creating jobs that pay good wages is the best way to grow our economy and the middle class,” the Obama administration writes. “To compete in the 21st Century economy and make America a magnet for job creation and opportunity, we need to invest in American innovation, strengthening our manufacturing base, keeping our Nation at the forefront of technological advancement, and leading in the development of clean energy alternatives and the promotion of energy efficiency while moving toward energy security through safe and responsible domestic energy production.”


I was interested to see that in addition to the manufacturing institutes, the budget also calls for launching a public-private investment fund for advanced manufacturing start-ups, known as the American Made Scale-Up Fund, to help ensure, as President Obama says, “if a technology is invented in the United States, it can be made in the United States.” The Scale-Up Fund will help emerging American-made advanced manufacturing technologies reach commercial scale production in the U.S., creating manufacturing jobs for the future and helping to ensure America keeps making things the rest of the world wants to buy, Obama says.


Although the President’s proposal to provide two years of free community college to responsible students has been in the news lately, that’s not the administration’s only focus on community colleges. Indeed, Obama says that community colleges, like those in Tennessee and Texas, that build strong employer partnerships and offer training in in-demand fields are creating career pathways to the middle class. Consequently, the budget requests $200 million for a new American Technical Training Fund to create or expand innovative, evidence-based job training programs in high-demand fields that provide a path to the middle class for hard-working, low-wage Americans. Projects would emphasize strong employer partnerships, work-based learning opportunities, accelerated training and flexible scheduling for students to accommodate part-time work.


One final item that caught my attention is what is termed “Expanding Apprenticeships and Employer-Validated Credentials.” The Budget makes investments to achieve the goal of doubling registered apprenticeships across the U.S. over the next five years. Those investments will then allow workers to learn skills while they are earning a paycheck, and ensures that training leads to high-quality jobs by investing in projects that feature strong industry partnerships and incent additional employer investment in worker training, Obama explains.


It’s no secret a Republican-controlled Congress will likely balk at much of what the White House is proposing. However, the manufacturing hubs—which combine federal and non-federal funds to build research clusters involving companies, universities and nonprofit groups—have drawn bipartisan support in the past. Furthermore, one would think there would be bipartisan support for initiatives that help Americans upgrade their skills and education. It may not be an immediate fix, but plans to expand technical training and increase apprenticeships would provide a pipeline for skilled labor further down the road.


What are your thoughts on plans to continue spending on manufacturing hubs as well as making education and apprenticeships more readily available?