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Washington, May 12, 2016 | comments

John Ratzenberger Pitches American Manufacturing to Congress

WASHINGTON – Emmy-nominated actor and “Made in America” advocate John Ratzenberger told members of the House Small Business Committee that the face of American manufacturing has changed dramatically in recent years, presenting new job opportunities for millions of Americans. Ratzenberger, best known as Cliff Clavin from the sitcom Cheers and the voice of Hamm from Pixar’s Toy Story movies, testified alongside a panel of small manufacturers and experts about the importance of vocational training to close the manufacturing skills gap.

“When people think of manufacturers, too often they think of giant corporations with huge production facilities and steam whistles commanding shift changes,” said House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “The truth is that the vast majority of American manufacturing is done by small businesses. In fact, 99 percent of all manufacturers are categorized as small. Though they might be considered “small” businesses, their effect on our economy is enormous.”

“We must do better job educating young people to improve the perception of what manufacturing really is and getting the word out that manufacturing is “clean and safe” and “high-tech” rather than “dirty and dangerous,” added Chairman Chabot.

Chabot noted that manufacturers in the United States employ over 12 million people and directly contribute over $2 trillion to our economy each year.

The New Face of American Manufacturing

“There are close to a million jobs available right now in small businesses around the country that rely on people with mechanical common sense skills that we've stopped offering in our public schools three generations ago,” testified Mr. Ratzenberger. “The most repeated complaint today from potential employers is that it's impossible to train someone for any of the jobs available when they graduate from high schools everywhere without the ability to even read inches and fractions from a simple ruler.”

“Manufacturing is the backbone of Western Civilization. Everything we do every single day is reliant first on someone's ability to not only put a nut and a bolt together but to make that nut and that bolt in the first place,” observed Mr. Ratzenberger. “The big worrisome question then is this: How do we reinstate the necessary programs in our schools to give our children a familiarity of the tools that built and maintain our civilization and way of life? If the average age of the people that keep our nation and the nation’s infrastructure working is 58 years old, then how long do we have before it all stops?”

One American Manufacturer’s Story

“As a nation we also need to do a better job of accurately characterizing the multi-faceted and exciting careers that exist within manufacturing,” said Dustin Tillman, the President and CEO of Elite Aviation Products. Despite our talent as a culture for crafting topnotch media, we do a poor job at shining a spot light on the exciting and fulfilling career paths that exist within modern manufacturing; full of all the intricate and challenging dynamics that would enthrall and captivate the young workforce entering the job market.”

“For us, and many other businesses out there, the best pool of talent that I’ve been exposed to have been veterans. These highly trained individuals who possess key characteristics for success in business, e.g., honor, integrity, discipline, and leadership are right in our own backyards, and, from what I’ve seen, eager to get to work,” added  Tillman whose company founded the Elite Veterans Initiative Elite to support, empower, and employ veterans.

The Role of Education

“Today’s manufacturing environment requires highly skilled individuals who not only understand complex technological applications but also are adept at problem solving,” testified Dr. Ray Perren, the President of Lanier Technical College in Oakwood, Georgia. “Although the face of manufacturing is changing, too often the perception of manufacturing has not changed. Too often, people think of manufacturing jobs as being physically repetitive work, carried out in dirty environments, with little or no ability to utilize critical thinking to improve job performance. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

You can read all the witness testimony from today’s hearing here and view the full video of today’s hearing here.

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