U.S. Rep. Alma Adams wants high schoolers to know it’s possible to land an in-demand job that pays over $60,000 a year without having to go to college.
That’s why the Democratic congresswoman from North Carolina’s 12th District was in Charlotte Friday promoting investment in the manufacturing industry.
The industy has been a political hot topic lately, especially as it relates to trade. Earlier this week, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence was in Charlotte talking about how administrations of both parties have been “eroding the foundation” of American manufacturing.
In the fifth stop on her “Made in the 12th” tour, Adams met with government officials such as Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, education leaders, workforce development providers and representatives from local manufacturers including Siemens and Snyder’s-Lance to talk about how Congress can support manufacturing in the area.
“We’ve done a disservice to our young people by not promoting in this area,” Adams, whose district includes parts of Mecklenburg County, told the group at a roundtable at the Charlotte Works office on West Morehead.
“When I was growing up, going through school, we did have certain ... courses in shop, automotive mechanics, and and I think we’ve taken those things out of the schools. We’ve got to do a better job in really helping young people understand there are many types of opportunities.”
And for good reason, too: Manufacturing jobs in North Carolina, Adams noted, pay an average of $67,000 a year. The state already has over 150,000 manufacturing employees, or about 10 percent of the nation’s manufacturing workforce, but there’s room to grow, especially as older skilled workers age out out of the workforce.
Adams said she’ll support legislation to ramp up spending in innovation, infrastructure and job training in manufacturing. The goal, she said, is to help manufacturers compete in the global economy while encouraging them to keep their operations in the U.S.
“What I’m able to do in Congress impacts what you’re able to do here at home,” Adams said.
Republican Leon Threatt, who is running against Adams in the November election, told the Observer one of the first thing he’ll do to support U.S. manufacturing is address the imbalance of foreign trade. Imports, he said, “greatly hurt” American manufacturing.
“We have to reassess (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and all the other free trade agreements to ensure we’re not disadvantaging our manufacturing companies by allowing unfair trade practices with China, Mexico and other importing countries,” Threatt said.
Boosting manufacturing could cut down on student debt, Adams said, because a college degree isn’t necessary for a good portion of well-paying manufacturing jobs.
“We just need to do a better job of making sure that everyone who may not want to go onto a four-year institution can understand they can still have a good quality life, they can earn a good living, and manufacturing is one opportunity they can look into,” she said.
Central Piedmont Community College has doubled down its job-training efforts through offering courses in fields like manufacturing and transportation, working with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and partnering with manufacturers like Siemens to offer apprenticeships.
Dawn Braswell, a training manager at Siemens, said all of CMS should try to replicate what Olympic High School has done with its focus on job-training classes in high school.