Aluminum Industry Partners With Department Of Energy

Posted by Heidi Schwartz

The Aluminum Association recently announced a new partnership with the Department of Energy (DOE) to increase the number of aluminum industry jobs in the U.S. and explore new, sustainable technologies to advance U.S. manufacturing. The DOE’s Aluminum Industry Jobs Partnership will identify opportunities to expand plant capacity and improve workforce development systems to help bring qualified candidates to the industry. Currently, the $65 billion aluminum industry directly employs around 155,000 workers in the United States.

Aluminum tunnel.
Photo: © Gerard Uferas, Constellium Singen 04_12, Alusingen-Platz 1, 78224 Singen, Germany

The Aluminum Industry Jobs Partnership will be composed of participants from the Aluminum Association and its member companies as well as the DOE Jobs Strategy Council (JSC) and Office of the Secretary. The JSC is a cross-cutting initiative that integrates the research, technology and economic resources of the Department to respond to the workforce and economic development needs of the energy industry and state and local governments. The Partnership will collaborate to explore technologies to advance the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and will initially meet on a quarterly basis to review the condition of the industry, identify projects of joint interest and implement activities of mutual benefit.

“Creating more aluminum industry jobs in the U.S. contributes to the economy and the environment,” said David Foster, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Energy. “Aluminum is unique as a material in that it’s highly recyclable, extremely durable and it can contribute directly to energy efficiency through lightweighting in the transportation, building and other environments.”

Aluminum products can lower energy use in dozens of applications. Builders can gain points for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by using aluminum in construction projects. Highly recycled and lightweight aluminum packaging reduces shipping costs, material use and carbon emissions for beverage makers. And a study by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that aluminum has a 20 percent smaller life cycle energy use compared to a typical vehicle on the road today.

“This is a terrific example of the public and private sectors working together to strengthen U.S. manufacturing—ensuring that we have a modern workforce that tracks with growth for the sustainable modern metal,” said Heidi Brock, President and CEO of the Aluminum Association.

The Partnership will have four initial goals:

  1. Expand the number of aluminum industry jobs in the U.S.;
  2. Improve industry workforce development systems by identifying and addressing skills shortages and developing training programs;
  3. Explore cross-cutting technologies to  enhance U.S. manufacturing; and
  4. Identify opportunities for more energy efficient manufacturing throughout the industry.

The U.S. aluminum industry continues to improve its environmental performance in a variety of areas. A peer-reviewed life cycle assessment study released in 2014 found that the energy used to produce new (primary) aluminum is down more than a quarter since 1995. At the same time, recovery and recycling across the industry is on the rise. Today, around 70 percent of U.S. aluminum production is in secondary, or recycled, metal.  Recycled aluminum requires 92 percent less energy to make than new aluminum, which has a major impact on the industry’s overall environmental footprint.