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Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Discusses Tackling the Skills Gap

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Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling with members of the Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships

Millions of jobs have been created in the years since the recession ended, but many Americans are still out of work. In fact, there are about 4 million job openings right now, and yet about 4 million Americans have been job-searching more than 6 months. Many employers simply cannot find workers with the skills necessary to do the jobs available.

Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships (BLU) is working to address the skills mis-match by creating sector partnerships that align employers’ hiring needs with local and regional training systems.  Yesterday, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joined Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling to speak to BLU about what the Administration is doing to invest in workforce skills training and to hear about ways employers are proactively developing partnerships to create a pipeline of skilled workers in their local areas.

Business leaders cited how their initiative, investments, and partnerships with local community colleges, Workforce Investment Boards, non-profits, and each other industry peers and others have reduced nursing shortages in Louisville; helped the long-term unemployed train for and gain employment in the financial services industry in southern California; and developed an electrical contracting apprenticeship program with 100% job placement in Tennessee. An export-oriented metal forming manufacturer in Minnesota described how he has worked with local community and technical colleges to create certificate programs to develop the skilled workforce the company needs.  

Secretary Pritzker is committed to making skills and workforce development a top priority for the Commerce Department under her leadership, and the Commerce Department has several initiatives to equip workers for 21st century jobs. For instance, Since 2011, the Economic Development Administration has provided more than $25 million for training facilities to meet local business needs, and NIST’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) helps businesses assess workforce needs. For example, when a small manufacturer obtains new equipment, MEP can help re-train workers

The companies comprising BLU have found that one way to ensure the American workforce remains competitive is for employers to drive partnerships that support skills and training. They are finding local and regional solutions to their local skills shortages across a variety of industries. Secretaries Pritzker and Perez recognize that these local problems and solutions affect our nation's competitiveness. They are committed to ensuring that the Departments of Commerce and Labor support, reinforce, and promote the work that BLU's partnerships and others are carrying out to help American companies fill critical openings and jobless Americans find pathways into middle class jobs.

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How do we train for skills that are only 6 months old?

I agree and applaude what the Secretary wants to do. We face this challenge in Utah. Adobe has more than 100 jobs they can't fill because our workforce lacks skills in the specific languages they need. Unfortunately, the languages themselves are some less than a year or six months old. What can we do to generate training programs for today's ever-changing, state-of-the-art technologies?