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Secretary Pritzker Tours BMW Factory and Training Facilities in Germany

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Groupf photo of Pritzker and apprentice training program students

Following the announcement of her strategic vision for the Department of Commerce last week, which includes a focus on ensuring that workers are prepared with the skills that employers need, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today toured BMW's training facilities at their headquarters in Munich, Germany with CEO Dr. Norbert Reithofer and Head of Apprentice Training Jan Eggert.  

Secretary Pritzker went to BMW to learn more about how the company implements the German Dual System of Vocational training, through which students receive a technical degree at a local educational institution while simultaneously participating in on-the-job training. BMW has a unique apprenticeship program, which is currently training 4,500 apprentices worldwide with the skills the company anticipates it will need from future employees. BMW has spent 1.2 billion euros on professional development since 2007.

While the majority of BMW apprentices are located in Germany, the company is expanding its program internationally, including at their Spartanburg, South Carolina plant. BMW employs more than 7,000 workers in South Carolina, and they have 70 apprentices at the facility who they are training for BMW careers. The apprenticeship program in Spartanburg has been in place since 2011 and works with three local technical colleges. 

Secretary Pritzker has made skills development a top priority of the Commerce Department for the very first time, and is encouraging businesses to partner with local education institutions on programs that train high-quality workers for in-demand jobs. She will work closely with her counterparts, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, on these workforce training initiatives. BMW's model is one that can help inform these efforts.

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Pritzker's Germany trip

Ms. Pritzker:

Please use the bully pulpit your job gives you to repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly, challenge, challenge, challenge the US business community to do what one-fourth of all German companies (who employ way more than one-fourth of all workers) do — spend lots of money to help train youth to meet their workforce needs.

I get really angry when I read again and again about US business leaders yammering that the public schools don’t deliver well-trained entry-level workers for employers to pick-and-choose among for mostly low-wage, low-or-no benefit, part-time employment.

US business must SPEND MONEY and provide training opportunities, not just wait for publicly-funded education and workforce programs to do the job (and maybe, if business leaders feel inclined to do a little more, send members of their HR staff to sit on advisory boards to tell the publicly-funded education entities and workforce programs what to do).

You need to persistently work on telling the US business community that it must start to be part of the solution, in real, tangible ways that don't stop short of negatively affecting the bottom line (at least in the short term) and are flat-out inconvenient.

apprenticeship program in international trade

Apprenticeship program is a powerful win-win proposition for both the youth and small and mid-sized businesses to grow their businesses beyond domestic markets.
Germany's success need to be studied and see how it could be applicable to the U.S. to create jobs in the economy.
Ayse Oge
President Ultimate Trade
International Trade Consulting Speaking and Training
Encino, California