WASHINGTON-The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is praising a new certification program for skilled "production technicians" developed by the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC).

"This is a breakthrough with great implications for the future of manufacturing in the United States," says NAM President, John Engler. "Introduction of this certification program underscores growing recognition that America must do a better job of training and educating our workforce to remain competitive in the global economy."

According to Engler, the new program will help address what NAM is describing as a growing "skills gap," the result of an increasingly technological workplace, and the ongoing retirement of older workers. Engler says certification will make it clear to workers what skills they need to be successful, and at the same time enable manufacturers to identify applicants who have the requisite skills.

According to the NAM's 2005 Skills Gap Report, 90 percent of respondents to a survey identified a moderate to severe shortage of qualified skilled production employees including machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors and technicians.

"There are two important problems the MSSC system addresses," says Keith Romig of the United Steelworkers, the chair of the MSSC's labor caucus. "The first is that many workers in our industries do have the skills they need to perform their jobs at a high level. What they lack is any formal means of certifying the fact, either to their current employers or to prospective future employers. Furthermore, as noted by the previous speakers, our educational system is not training a sufficient number of new workers in these vital industrial skills."

John Rauschenberger, manager of personnel research & development for Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, MI), says that as workforce competence looms ever larger as a serious challenge to industry, the nationally recognized certification program will provide a basis for documenting competency across all sectors.

"This unique system is a definitive nationwide program for creating a much larger pool of production workers with strong crosscutting, multidisciplinary competencies that has the flexibility to adjust to rapid change," Rauschenberger says. "MSSC's industry-led and federally recognized skill standards remain the most authoritative and comprehensive definition of the skills and knowledge needed in manufacturing today and into the foreseeable future. The MSSC system will be a major benefit for manufacturers both large and small who require competent employees to remain competitive."

For additional information on the program, visit www.msscusa.org.