Obama's Budget: Dollars for Manufacturing Education, Rare Earths Research

Continuing with our look at President Obama’s budget proposal, a few Mineweb articles this week point out a few important line items regarding mining. But first, a look at something MetalMiner has spent some time reporting on: educating — and hiring — the next generation of American manufacturing workers.

Education in Trades

Obama is evidently continuing his push to get young workers interested in making the US competitive in terms of manufacturing, as he had been with his Skills for America’s Future initiative.

“As part of his short-term stimulus efforts, Obama today announced an $8 billion Community College to Career Fund proposal that would link businesses and community colleges to train as many as 2 million workers for jobs in high-growth, high demand industries,” Bloomberg reported yesterday. This is on top of the $2 billion in competitive funds Obama pledged in 2010 to community colleges over four years, according to a November 2010 White House press release.

The departments of Education and Labor would tag-team this effort, the canopy of which includes health care, advanced manufacturing, transportation, clean energy and information technology, according to an official statement as reported by Bloomberg.

The question becomes, with more than $10 billion sunken into this endeavor, what will the ROI be? And at what rates are companies hiring these types of grads for worthwhile positions?

There are signs that, to some degree, the plan is working. One good example is in San Diego, where Solar Turbines accepts (and has been for 30 years) apprentices who work at the company while getting certification at San Diego City College, according to a KPBS article. Also, Southwestern Community College partners with Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility to train shipyard workers.

However, state budget cuts may prove a roadblock to Obama’s hopes down the line: California cut funding for apprenticeship programs at community colleges two years ago by 51 percent, according to KPBS.

Mining Safety, Mining Royalties and Rare Earths Research

Back to how the budget proposes to affect domestic metals and mining directly. A Mineweb article claims, “approvals of mine ventilation and roof plans face more delays” in the proposed 2013 Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) budget, which is proposed to be cut by $1 million from last year.

Granted, most of this proposal deals with coal mines and coal-mine safety, but at least some jobs in the mining sector will be retained: the article states that the “budget maintains the 597 fulltime positions currently in the metal and nonmetal mine safety and health division,” and “requests an increase of $1,834,000 to fully fund enforcement staff positions.”

A separate Mineweb article details Obama’s “calls for a 5% gross mining royalty on federal lands, and a hardrock abandoned mined land fee on all private and public lands.” Obama proposed the same last year, only to be shot down by Congress. The administration says the royalties will yield $74.5 million in revenue over the next decade, and “would be instituted under a leasing program under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 for certain hardrock minerals, such as silver, gold and copper.”

Lastly, the proposed budget for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has been upped $34.5 million from last year, including an increase of $1 million to support research on rare earth elements.

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