Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama on Monday expanded his push for increased manufacturing in the United States by directing federal money toward new technologies, apprenticeship programs and competitions designed to assist small manufacturers.

The White House announced the executive actions Monday as part of the day’s focus on manufacturing, which administration officials consider one of the bright spots of the economic recovery. Obama met with a panel of labor, academic and industry officials who have offered advice on how to boost the manufacturing sector.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the three executive measures “represent substantial investment by the federal government into research and technology that could boost the advanced manufacturing sector moving forward.”

The measures would:

_ Allow the Pentagon, NASA and the Energy and Agriculture departments to collectively spend $300 million to develop advanced materials and new technology for sensors and digital manufacturing.

_ Direct $100 million in Labor Department funds for apprenticeship programs aimed at advanced manufacturing.

_ Authorize the Commerce Department to spend $150 million over five years in 10 states to help manufacturers adopt and market new technologies.

Among those attending Monday’s White House meeting were Dow Chemical Co. chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris and Siemens Corp. president and CEO Eric Spiegel. The White House said both of their companies, along with Alcoa, have initiated apprenticeship pilot programs and created a guide for other employers.

Overall, the U.S. economy has created 700,000 manufacturing jobs since its low point of 11.45 million jobs in February 2010. Still, the sector has far to go before returning to its former glory days in 1979 and early 1980 when it accounted for more than 19 million jobs. Between 2000 and the beginning of 2009, the sector lost nearly 5 million jobs.