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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Manufacturing jobs have seen a heavy boost in job fulfillment in the U.S. in previous months, as the U.S. economy slowly recovers.

The August jobs report showed 1.37 million new jobs added, with unemployment sitting at 8.4 percent.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia toured Machines Specialist Inc. in Whitsett. It marked his first stop in the Triad since a February visit.

He explained that manufacturing jobs are “coming back,” due to a trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada

“[Manufacturing jobs are] critical to our economy, to our economic wellbeing, to our national security,” Scalia said.

A big concern for smaller, local manufacturing and cyber companies, like RTriad – a cybersecurity company out of Greensboro – is the ability to compete against big companies.

A question that has been on owner Kevin Robinson’s mind all summer revolves around growing apprenticeships partnership programs.

Guilford County has begun to heavily push young people, and veterans, into learning positions at manufacturing sites. At least six of those people joined Robinson’s company within the past few weeks growing his employee base from two to eight.

“Large companies of the world, they are really attracting that talent. It’s a dry pool. So now, with 1.5 million job openings we’re building the talent. We’re building talent to replace that pool,” he said.

Scalia said more help is on the way for companies like RTriad in the form of flexibility in apprenticeship programs for smaller companies to take advantage of.

Scalia described is as, “not every apprenticeship needs to be four years long. We call these industry-recognized apprenticeship programs. The idea is that a trade association, a group of smaller businesses, or a community college, can become accredited by, and recognize a good apprenticeship program. Then that apprenticeship program can give out certificates.”

When asked if the apprenticeship programs can help struggling businesses like mom-and-pop shops, and restaurants who must compete against large companies, the secretary said, “I mean, it might.”

Some businesses FOX8 spoke with before the secretary’s visit said they struggle to hire and retain staff members. Restaurants have reported losing employees to companies like Amazon when they can no longer compete against the pay offered.

Spruce Street Garden owner Alex Hollowell said he felt forgotten by the federal government in that way.

“You’re going to see a lot of small businesses go under, because there’s not enough help to go around,” Hollowell said.