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Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Highlights Skills Initiatives in Madison, Wisconsin

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President Obama recently laid out plans in his State of the Union address to foster an economy that’s built to last by ensuring that America has the highly skilled workers necessary for 21st century jobs. Yesterday, Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, where she visited the Madison Area Technical College, a training ground for students that leads directly to skilled manufacturing jobs nationwide. Blank met with students and sat in on a training class focused on hybrid vehicle technology. Blank also delivered remarks on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce training and met with business and university leaders. Commerce’s Economic Development Administration recently teamed up with Madison College to provide mobile technical training opportunities both on-campus and throughout the region. The training focused on advanced manufacturing and automotive technology.

Blank also visited with several business and academic leaders, who are vital partners in the area of technical training at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.Ensuring we have a globally competitive workforce–including individuals trained in STEM fields–is integral to a globally competitive economy. In recent years, only about 13 percent of U.S. college graduates got degrees in science, technology, engineering or math. That is much lower than other countries like Korea and Germany at 25 percent. We can do better. And we must, because the jobs of tomorrow will be powered by STEM.

This administration has demonstrated its commitment to training the next generation of skilled workers, having already invested $3.4 billion in STEM education in fiscal 2010. Over the last decade, growth in STEM job openings climbed three times as fast as other jobs, and STEM jobs are not just open to people with masters in Engineering or Ph.D.s in nanotechnology. Up to a third of STEM jobs are filled by workers without a college degree, people who are engineering technicians, computer support specialists, network system analysts, or network and computer system administrators.

Blank’s trip follows last week’s release of the January jobs report, which showed that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent, the lowest it’s been since President Obama took office. In January, we added 50,000 jobs alone in manufacturing. Over the past two years, we’ve added 3.7 million new jobs in total.

Even though the economy has added private sector jobs every month for almost two straight years, there is still work to be done. This is why we must ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to develop the skills they need for the jobs of the 21st century.

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