The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has created a working group to address what are perceived to be big problems in education and workforce development. As the manufacturing sector grapples with workforce shortages, NAM wants to improve the quality of education in primary, secondary, and postsecondary schools, as well as programs that train and retrain workers.

In its 2005 skills gap report, 80% of the respondents said they suffered serious workforce shortages, and that these shortages made it tough to meet production targets, boost productivity, and compete. And 90% of the surveyed businesses reported a moderate-to-severe shortage of qualified, skilled production workers, including front-line workers such as machinists, operators, and technicians.

The goal of the workgroup is to open a dialogue about the education and job-training issues its members face. NAM says the information will drive initiatives it will take to congressional leaders.

"Without changes in federal funding, some of our objectives will never be met," says workgroup member Pamela Kan, president of Bishop-Wisecarver Corp. "The federal government must make technical education and workforce development a priority, and make funding available."