Langevin Leads Legislation To Strengthen Rhode Island Manufacturing Workforce

Oct 28, 2019 Issues: Economy and Jobs

WASHINGTON – Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) today introduced the Retain Innovation and Manufacturing Excellence Act, a bill that would encourage businesses to retain retiring employees long enough to train the workers taking their place. Langevin’s bill is a House companion to legislation introduced by Senator Whitehouse that addresses a critical workforce development issue that Rhode Island manufacturers have long struggled to solve.

“Rhode Island’s manufacturing workforce is aging, and as retirements increase, there are plenty of good, high-paying jobs available. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough younger workers with the skills needed to succeed in these positions,” said Congressman Langevin, who co-chairs the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus. “The Retain Innovation and Manufacturing Excellence Act helps manufacturers keep their retiring employees on staff to assist replacement workers who require hands-on training and guidance. I applaud Senator Whitehouse for taking the lead on this issue in the Senate, and I look forward to working together to advance this important legislation that will support manufacturing in Rhode Island and across the country.”

The Retain Innovation and Manufacturing Excellence Act would establish a pilot program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to allow regional Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEPs) to offer workforce training grants to local manufacturers. MEP Centers would award funds to small manufacturing businesses to allow them to retain departing employees for up to 90 days for the purposes of training new or promoted employees on the unique functions of their jobs. The bill would authorize up to $10 million to be used for the pilot program.

“Manufacturing companies have identified skilled workforce development as one of their top priorities for growing their business,” said Christian Cowan, Center Director for Polaris MEP, Rhode Island’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership center. “We are pleased to support the Retain Innovation and Manufacturing Excellence Act, which provides new tools to address the skills gap associated with aging workforce in small and medium sized manufacturing companies.”

“The Rhode Island Manufacturers Association recently surveyed our members, and 35-90% of the employees of the responding companies are 55+ of age,” said Dave Chenevert, President of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association (RIMA). “It is critical that the Retain Innovation and Manufacturing Excellence Act be passed so that the knowledge and experience of our aging workforce can be passed to the next generation of manufacturers.”

Text of the legislation.