Harper president meets Obama over plans for high-tech training

Harper College President Kenneth Ender and members of a federal steering committee met with President Barack Obama in the West Wing Monday, to discuss training more workers for jobs in high-tech manufacturing fields.

Among the discussion points during the half-hour meeting Monday afternoon in the Roosevelt room, just off the Oval Office: "Recognizing government, business, education and industry advocacy groups really need to come together to think more about a systematic approach - whether it be producing talent or incubating new businesses," Ender said.

"One acting on its own can do some, but it's the synergy of those groups that really makes something special."

It's a topic Ender is well versed in. In 2012 he helped launch Harper's Advanced Manufacturing program that trains workers for high-tech manufacturing jobs in as little as 18 months.

The program, which pairs students with local manufacturers offering paid internships, has garnered national attention.

In December, Ender was asked to sit on the 19-member Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee 2.0, assembled by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. The panel explored programs that train more workers in advanced manufacturing skills and spur development of new manufacturing technologies.

Ender and other committee members on Monday afternoon presented Obama with the committee's final report, which resulted in a series of executive actions related to the findings.

The measures allow the Pentagon, NASA and the Energy and Agriculture departments to collectively spend $300 million to develop advanced materials and new technology for sensors and digital manufacturing.

They also direct $100 million in Labor Department funds for apprenticeship programs aimed at advanced manufacturing; and authorize the Commerce Department to spend $150 million over five years to help manufacturers adopt and market new technologies in 10 states.

Ender expects most of the funding to be released as competitive grants, which he says Harper College will apply for.

He said committee members also encouraged Obama "to use the bully pulpit" to promote careers in manufacturing.

Other members of the committee include the CEOs of Northrop Grumman, Caterpillar, Honeywell, Siemens, Dow and Alcoa, as well as the presidents and chancellors of Georgia Tech, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Akron, University of California at Berkeley and University of Michigan. Ender is one of two community college representatives.

• Daily Herald wire services contributed to this story.

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