American manufacturing has some serious problems and some serious opportunities. That was the message brought to the annual meeting of World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara Thursday night.
The featured speaker, Keith Smith of the National Association of Manufacturers, said the challenges include a shortage of 500,000 skilled workers, a trade war with China and the inability of Congress to ratify the trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
Part of the solution, he maintains, can come from Washington.
"Members of Congress of both parties understand the impact that manufacturing has on the economy and in our communities," Smith said. "Getting additional certainty and passing these very important trade policy priorities, they're going to be critical."
During Smith's speech at Templeton Landing, he discussed vocational education and its poor image.
"It had been seen as a remedial path," Smith acknowledged. A new concentration on STEM fields is helping to change that perception.
"Students of today, they want to be creators and that's exactly what we're sending the message across the country of what type of creator opportunities exist in our sector."
According to Smith, there is a push to get more minorities and women involved in manufacturing.
"We don't look at it as just white collar or blue collar. We look at it as new collar jobs."