A significant skills gap in manufacturing, coupled with increasing pressure to innovate, is causing concern among university leaders and organizations across the United States. In an effort to address the challenge, five industry and university panelists—including President Leshin—participated in a congressional briefing recently to voice their support for the Department of Defense’s new Manufacturing Engineering Education (MEE) grant program.
“I think it’s important when the government says that we need to start thinking differently and more innovatively about how we’re addressing the skills gap today and into the future,” Leshin said at the hearing, which was convened in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the House and Senate Manufacturing caucuses.
The MEE grant program was authorized by Congress with initial funding of $10 million for fiscal year 2017. However, university and industry leaders are requesting that Congress increase funding in the MEE program to $80 million for fiscal year 2018, and then $80 million annually from fiscal years 2019 through 2021 as a proposed insertion into the president’s future budget request. An increase in funding would allow awards to at least 20 universities and organizations of $4 million each in the first fiscal year.
ASME (known as American Society of Mechanical Engineers) hosted the July 25 hearing, which included panelists from WPI, Clemson University, the Department of Defense, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and Northrop Grumman Corp. The MEE program seeks to develop programs that closely link universities with industry and national labs by training engineering workers for the manufacturing of next-generation technologies, including military-industrial manufacturing activities.