Industry, academic heads discuss ways to help manufacturing sector |

Industry, academic heads discuss ways to help manufacturing sector

WASHINGTON – Dozens of corporate and academic leaders pressed the Bush administration on Tuesday for more funding to aid U.S. manufacturing, calling for help in research and development, science education and immigration reforms to help attract the world’s best scientists and engineers.”If we don’t move and move faster it will be a challenge to maintain our standard of living and our global leadership,” said former Michigan Gov. John Engler, who leads the National Association of Manufacturers.Participants at the National Summit on Competitiveness urged lawmakers to take several steps to bolster manufacturers, which have lost about 3 million jobs since the middle of 2000.Among the recommendations:- Increase federal investment by 10 percent over the next seven years in physical sciences, engineering and mathematics.- Double the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to U.S. students in science, math and engineering by 2015l; increase the number of science and math teachers in grades K-12.- Reform immigration policies so more foreign-born students can study and eventually work in science, engineering and mathematics.Officials joining in the talks at the Commerce Department included Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.Many academic and corporate officials said the country’s investment in research in physics, chemistry, math and engineering has flatlined in the past two decades, leaving the burden on the private sector.Participants Tuesday described memories of the nation’s interest in science and math education during the Apollo space program in the 1960s.Thomas Cech, president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Md., said he benefited from a wave of support for science that followed the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the Earth.”I just don’t see that happening anymore. At least not in this country,” Cech said.Companies said they have tried to be innovative. Vermeer Manufacturing Co. in Pella, Iowa, funds summer workshops for math and science teachers, company president and CEO Mary Vermeer Andringa said.But many companies said they struggle to find the best talent. Della Williams, president and CEO of Texas-based Williams-Pyro Inc., said she recruited foreign-born engineers in 1999 who had graduated from a nearby university.The company has spent thousands of dollars since then to try to keep the young engineers – from India, China, and Mexico – in the United States.”It’s been five years and we still do not have green cards,” Williams said.President Bush has sought a guest-worker program which has stalled in Congress.Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., said the panel’s recommendations would likely cost under $10 billion to implement.Vail, Colorado

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