President Barack Obama is joining U.S. manufacturers’ long-standing effort to increase the number of skilled workers and technicians they contend are needed to make their operations more effective competitors in the global economy. Obama endorsed the manufacturers’ agenda as part of the Skills for America’s Future initiative he launched last year, which seeks to improve industry partnerships with community colleges to improve training in vocational skills.

Now, the President has endorsed a “manufacturing skills credentialing” system developed by the Manufacturing Institute, a non-profit affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers. The idea is to expand certification programs for advanced vocational skills like welding or machining, in order to provide capable workers for such operations and to improve the workers’ potential of being hired for well-paying positions.

Speaking at a community college in Virginia on Wednesday, Obama announced new commitments by manufacturers and colleges that aim to credential 500,000 students with advanced manufacturing skills. Specifically, they will establish uniform credentialing systems and job-training requirements for various skilled trades, and match the community colleges with businesses to increase the pool of available workers nationwide.

The Association For Manufacturing Technology’s President Douglas K. Woods welcomed the presidential endorsement. “For more than two years now, AMT has emphasized the crucial role of public-private collaboration between industry, government and schools in meeting the demands of the new manufacturing workplace,” Woods stated.

AMT, which represented the manufacturing technology industry, has long argued for improvements in skills training for the U.S. labor pool. Adoption of a skills certification program was one recommendation of a three-part “strategy for re-invigorating American manufacturing” that AMT introduced last year.

That agenda, “The Manufacturing Mandate,” called for developing “a capable 21st century smartforce”; increasing R&D; and “enhancing global competitiveness by leveling the playing field for American businesses” as a prescription for strengthening domestic manufacturing and reviving economic growth.

“I hope the President doesn’t stop here,” Woods said. “More needs to be done to support this country’s manufacturers. I would like to see the Administration further expand the role of MEPs (Manufacturing Extension Partnerships, local efforts by specific industry groups to extend skills training to their areas) to become the new Manufacturing Innovation Centers, a one-stop resource for manufacturers to grow their businesses.”