Oklahoma Sen. Inhofe Introduces Bill to Help Train Next Generation of Manufacturing Workers

Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) have introduced the Retain Innovation and Manufacturing Excellence (RIME) Act, S.3778, to help businesses train the next generation of manufacturing workers. The senators’ bipartisan bill would establish a pilot program to allow businesses to retain retiring employees long enough to train replacement workers—tackling a major challenge for manufacturing companies.

“Manufacturing is the backbone of Oklahoma and America,” Inhofe says. “But as individuals retire from the workforce, small businesses have trouble finding and training the next generation of workers to take their place. By creating this grant pilot program to support the training of new workers, we can make it possible for small business to effectively train new employees alongside outgoing staff—making it possible to pass on critical institutional knowledge. Additionally, I am especially pleased that this legislation prioritizes veterans transitioning to a new career.”

“Manufacturers tell me one of their biggest challenges is handing down skills and knowledge from one generation of workers to the next. This bill would help them do that,” says Whitehouse. “Rhode Island is the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, and to this day continues a long tradition of manufacturing excellence. That’s why I’m proud to join Senator Inhofe on bipartisan legislation to strengthen American manufacturing.”

The RIME Act would establish the pilot program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to allow regional Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEPs) to apply for targeted workforce training grants provided by the Department of Commerce. The funding awarded to small manufacturers would be used to retain a departing employee for up to 90 days while they train a new or promoted employee on the unique functions of their job. The bill would authorize up to $10 million to be used for the pilot program.

“This program is an important step forward in addressing a problem that plagues American manufacturing,” says Dave Rowland, president of the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance. “Finding and retaining skilled employees remains the primary challenge of our industry. It constantly suppresses the production potential of companies in the United States. The national network of Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers is in a unique position to facilitate the transfer of job-specific skills and training, which in turn will raise the standard of living in communities across the country. We applaud Sens. Inhofe and Whitehouse on their bipartisan effort to provide solutions for this ongoing dilemma.”

The RIME Act is supported by manufacturers across Oklahoma.

“Ditch Witch is faced with workforce challenges similar to most manufacturing companies across the nation as we address significant demand increases for our product worldwide,” says Michael Grant, vice president of operations & supply chain for Ditch Witch. “The availability of skilled workers is vital to our growth and strategic objectives as a U.S. manufacturer. We have a great deal of tenure in our skilled worker ranks, and Senator Inhofe’s RIME Act legislation provides a tool for manufacturers to transfer valuable skills to workers just entering our company. As we address these challenges strategically we are excited to partner with the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance as they support Sen Inhofe’s RIME ACT and manufacturers in Oklahoma.”

“As a growing manufacturer headquartered in Oklahoma for almost 100 years we are very excited about the opportunity to add new skills and abilities for our tenured workforce,” says Dave Husted, senior vice president of human resources, M-D Building Products. “With the addition of many new technologies and the improvement of many of our previously manual machining processes, we are forever challenged to develop new skill sets that will help our employees to succeed in an ever-evolving workplace.”

“For a fast-growing, global company firmly rooted in Oklahoma City, we are thrilled to partner with the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance in support of Sen. Inhofe’s RIME Act,” says Gareth C. Ford, founder, president and CEO of Valiant Artificial Lift Solutions. “Having financial support to help transition jobs from our valued retirees to our talented incoming workforce will be of enormous benefit as gear up for the inevitable shift change in this industry.”


Osman Shangab sorts aluminum strips to be used in production of items at the MD Building Products plant in Oklahoma City Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman