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.