Last Friday I had the pleasure of touring the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 Training Center in Philadelphia. Local 19, along with the Sheet Metal Contractors Association of Philadelphia and Vicinity (SMCA) have partnered to train skilled sheet metal apprentices and journeypersons.
The tour was a great opportunity to see, first-hand, the kind of comprehensive training these workers are receiving. I had the opportunity to meet several of the trainees, get an overview of how the training process works and speak with several contractors and employers who utilize these trainees after they have completed all of the necessary requirements. I learned to find out that over 75,000 man-hours are devoted to training each year and that approximately 700 members pass through the training center in that time. Those statistics speak to the necessity of these programs in our educational system. In order for Pennsylvania, and the nation, to maintain a manufacturing base we need an educated workforce that cannot only compete with, but surpass the abilities of cheap labor that gives incentives to outsource jobs.
At the event, I was also able to learn more about Local 19 and the SMCA’s efforts to retrofit fume hoods in science laboratories to make them safer and more energy efficient. Aside from members of Local 19 and the SMCA, a number of attendees were from pharmaceutical, biotechnical and energy companies in southeastern Pennsylvania who hope to utilize this new technology.
Unfortunately, like the rest of our workforce, Local 19 has seen an increase in the number of its members that are unemployed. However, in this instance, the Union is proving the importance and ingenuity of an organized workforce by leading their own advances with this innovative technology that improves workplace safety, decreases energy consumption and creates good, sustainable jobs.
I recently had the pleasure of joining Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Governor Rendell and Mayor Nutter in Philadelphia to highlight the launch of the American Revolution Center. Located in the heart of Philadelphia within Independence National Historic Park, the American Revolution Center will focus on the country’s history spanning 1750 to 1800. The American Revolution Center will add another great cultural, historical, and educational institution to the Philadelphia region. I applaud the efforts that have brought us this far and look forward to the continued development of this exciting project.
On September 9th, I delivered a speech on Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Army War College. I was honored to address the student body in Carlisle which was made up of senior military officers from all services of the armed services, as well as from allied militaries in more than 50 countries.
Next month, we will enter the ninth year of our engagement in Afghanistan. In the speech, I outlined three main areas where we need to see progress in the near future: the fight against corruption at all levels in the country; the training of Afghan National Army and Police and the importance of the international development efforts, particularly in the field of agriculture. Each one of these elements are critical to our success in Afghanistan.
I also recognized the sacrifice of Pakistan in this conflict, especially in recent months. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly in the fight against extremism as well as from the devastating effects of the ongoing flood disaster. We must do all that we can to support sustained partnership with the people of Pakistan, a central theme of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill. Pakistan also has a crucial role to play in combating the flow of ammonium nitrate in Afghanistan, the deadly ingredient used in improvised explosive devices targeting our troops.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has lost 55 service members who gave what Lincoln called the “last full measure of devotion” to their country. I pray for their families and for ourselves, so that we may be worthy of their sacrifice on the field of battle. We have an obligation in the Senate to honor their memory through vigilant oversight of the war effort, and I look forward to honoring this solemn obligation during this challenging period that we face in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the historic Lancaster Amtrak Station with the County Commissioners, Lancaster Planning Commission and representatives from Amtrak to see how the renovations are progressing. The improvements being made to the station will enhance the overall riding experience along the Keystone Corridor.
In August, I coordinated a meeting between Amtrak and County officials to resolve differences regarding the overall cost estimate for the renovation project. I was pleased that all parties involved were able to reach an agreement that allowed the project to move forward. The renovations at the Lancaster Amtrak Station will benefit the entire community--I look forward to seeing the project upon completion.
Yesterday, I was in Mt. Braddock PA, where I joined the U.S. Commercial Service (U.S. Department of Commerce) to present the International Liners Co. with the Export Achievement Award. This award is part of the agency’s efforts to recognize small and medium-sized enterprises that have successfully entered the international marketplace. After the award presentation I had the opportunity to tour their facility, seeing their manufacturing process first hand. International Liner manufacturers truck bed liners through a special heat molding process. I was pleased to learn that International Liner buys all of its manufacturing materials in the United States.
International Liner serves as an example of what can be done by a small U.S. company with the right drive and assistance. I hope other businesses in and around western Pennsylvania will follow their lead and will take advantage of the resources available to them through the U.S. Commercial Service.