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Blog Entries from January 2014

U.S. Census Bureau Releases First-Ever Report on Measuring Alternative Educational Credentials

One-Quarter of Adults Hold Educational Credentials Other Than an Academic Degree, Census Bureau Reports

The U.S. Census Bureau today released the first-ever report examining the prevalence of non-degree certifications and licenses among American adults and their importance to the employment market. The report found that alternative credentials provide a path to higher earnings, underscoring that traditional educational attainment is just one way for workers to attain the skills needed in today’s global economy.  
 
A skilled workforce is an essential part of a modern, innovative economy. However, many U.S. employers today are struggling to find workers with the skills to fill some of the 3.9 million open jobs. That is why, for the first time, the Commerce Department is focusing on skills training as part of its Open for Business Agenda.
 
The report, Measuring Alternative Educational Credentials, found that in fall 2012, 50 million U.S. adults, or one in four, had obtained a professional certification, license or educational certificate apart from a postsecondary degree awarded by colleges and universities. The report shows that, in general, these alternative credentials provide a path to higher earnings. Among full-time workers, the median monthly earnings for someone with a professional certification or license only was $4,167, compared with $3,433 for one with an educational certificate only; $3,920 for those with both types of credentials; and $3,110 for people without any alternative credential.

This report makes it clear that Americans who pursue non-traditional education have the opportunity to obtain get good-paying jobs in emerging fields.  Among the adults included in the report, 12 million had both a professional certification or license and an educational certificate; 34 million had only a professional certification or license; and 7 million had only an educational certificate.

The Commerce Department will continue to work with the Departments of Education and Labor to ensure that workforce training investments are aligned with employer's current and future hiring needs, leading to high-quality jobs for workers and a productive workforce for employers. This collaboration across federal agencies will refine our understanding of non-degree credentials, adding to the critical data that the Census Bureau and others provide to support smart business decisions and sound public policy in workforce training.  Release

A New Partner in Implementing Our Innovation Agenda

A New Partner in Implementing Our Innovation Agenda

Guest blog post from Dr. Patrick Gallagher, NIST Director performing the duties of the Deputy Secretary of Commerce 

Yesterday, I had the honor of swearing in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) new deputy director, Michelle Lee. 

Lee most recently served as the first director of the USPTO’s satellite office in the Silicon Valley, which has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of startups and companies in the high tech industry. While serving as director, Lee and her team actively engaged in patent and trademark education and outreach efforts to the vibrant entrepreneur community in Silicon Valley. 

Beyond the Silicon Valley office, Lee has played a broader role in helping shape key policy matters impacting the nation’s intellectual property system, focusing closely on efforts to continually strengthen patent quality, as well as curbing abusive patent litigation. Prior to becoming Director of the Silicon Valley USPTO, Lee served two terms on the USPTO’s Patent Public Advisory Committee, whose members are appointed by the U.S. Commerce Secretary and serve to advise the USPTO on its policies, goals, performance, budget and user fees.

 The USPTO has four satellite offices nationwide, which enable the agency to provide more resources to more area entrepreneurs, tailor programs to local startups and industries, and more effectively create good-paying, high-skilled jobs. 

The satellite offices are just one part of the USPTO’s work to protect the cutting-edge ideas that keep America globally competitive, help entrepreneurs get their products to market more quickly, and help empower innovators with more resources to protect and scale their products. The agency’s work also puts them in the critical role of supporting the growth of regional innovation ecosystems. 

Looking South for Your Next Business Opportunities

Look South logo

Guest blog post by Michael Masserman, Executive Director for Export Policy, Promotion, and Strategy, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce

This week Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced the Look South Initiative, a movement to help American businesses leverage the Free Trade Agreements the United States shares with 11 countries in Latin America.

The Initiative is an important new part of the Commerce Department’s Open for Business Agenda, supporting American companies looking to increase their global presence.

More and more businesses are exporting, which is leading to record levels of exports for the country. That supports the U.S. economy, and it helps create jobs here at home.

However, most companies that currently export are only taking advantage of one market. Companies exporting to one market average roughly $375,000 in export sales. For a company exporting to two-to-four export markets, that average nearly triples to $1 million in sales. It's clear that exporting to additional markets improves a business's bottom line.

For businesses looking to expand their export markets, "Looking South" is a simple way to start. More than half of our free trade agreements are in Latin America, which generally equates to greater easer in entering those markets. Tariffs are low if they exist at all, which can mean a lower cost of doing business. 

Secretary Pritzker Highlights Department's Innovation Agenda at CES

Secretary Pritzker stopped at Intel's booth to look at their new wearable devices, which included a baby monitor.  (Photo credit: Consumer Electronics Association)

Secretary Penny Pritzker this week attended the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), an annual showcase of the very latest in technology innovation. In addition to touring the floor, Secretary Pritzker participated in the "America is Open for Business and Innovation" Super Session, a one-on-one conversation with President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, Gary Shapiro. Throughout the Super Session, Secretary Pritzker discussed the Commerce Department's initiatives to strengthen America's competitive edge by investing in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Secretary Pritzker highlighted some of the key ways in which the department works to promote innovation. For example, the department has undertaken great efforts to reform the patent process and reduce the patent backlog, and is moving forward with an aggressive agenda to support U.S. manufacturing. She spoke about the compelling economic case for immigration reform, and need for skilled workforce training. These efforts will help create the conditions that allow private sector companies to out-innovate anyone in the world.

Pritzker noted that the companies present at CES are critical to the strength of the U.S. economy. U.S. tech employment in 2012 totaled nearly 6 million, and the tech industry paid an annual average wage of $93,800 that same year. That is 98 percent more than the average private sector wage of $47,400. The app economy alone has created more than 500,000 jobs.

50 Years Later, Commerce Works to Keep Fighting Poverty

Infographic Highlights of the History and Measurement of Poverty Text

Guest blog post by Josh Dickson, Director, Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

“This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America…It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won.” – President Lyndon B. Johnson, State of the Union, January 8, 1964."

Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of the War on Poverty. The effort, which consisted of anti-poverty programs aimed at improving education and healthcare access, feeding the hungry, and ensuring a livelihood for our seniors, was an important step in both our country’s awareness of and commitment to fighting the hurdles, hardships and lack of opportunity faced by people living below the poverty line.

Over the past 50 years, federal programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Headstart and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have played a critical role in the national effort to fight poverty. Today, these and other anti-poverty initiatives have contributed to a reduction in overall poverty rates and are currently keeping close to 40 million Americans from falling below the poverty line. In addition to a decrease in the overall poverty rate during this time, the poverty rate among seniors has fallen from roughly 30 percent in the mid-1960s to 9.1 percent in 2012.

The Obama administration has worked hard to help create jobs, improve our schools, increase access to healthcare, and ensure fair treatment for everyone working and seeking work. And the effort to continue fighting poverty remains a top priority for President Obama. According to the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau, 49.7 million Americans, or 16 percent of the population, were in poverty in 2012. Furthermore, a Census report released yesterday found that 3.5 percent of our population experienced chronic poverty between 2009 and 2011. During that same period of time, nearly one in three Americans lived in poverty for at least two months.

Narrowing the Digital Divide in the Navajo Nation

Narrowing the Digital Divide in the Navajo Nation

Cross-post, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Spread across the Four Corners region of the American Southwest, the Navajo Nation is home to up to 175,000 members of the Navajo Tribe. Tribal members live scattered across more than 27,000 square miles of land stretching from northeast Arizona to northwest New Mexico to southeast Utah.

It’s a place where many roads have never been paved, many buildings don’t have a formal postal address and thousands of families remain cut off from the electrical grid. At least 60 percent of homes don’t have landline telephone service even though wireless signals are often spotty or nonexistent. The 911 system often cannot track where people are calling from during an emergency. And high-speed Internet access has been almost entirely unavailable.

Data from the National Broadband Map, which is maintained by NTIA in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission, show that less than 4 percent of the population living in Navajo Nation territory has access to even the most basic wireline broadband speeds of 3 megabits per second downstream.

But with a $32 million grant from NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is bringing a modern wireless communications system to a region that has been all too frequently bypassed by amenities that most Americans take for granted.

Established in 1959 to deliver basic utility services, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority today is one of the largest utilities owned and operated by an American Indian tribe. It provides water, sewage, electricity, natural gas, solar power and communications services to tens of thousands of customers across the Navajo Nation. And now the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is signing up its first customers for a new 4G LTE wireless broadband network funded largely by the federal government.

Commerce’s Most Popular 13 Blog Posts of 2013

Vice President Joe Biden Swearing In Penny Prtizker as the 38th U.S. Secretary of Commerce

As we look forward to the new year, we wanted to take a moment to reflect back on Commerce’s most popular blog posts from last year. Take a look at our list of the 13 blog posts that received the most unique views in 2013: 

1.       United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations: Post the first day of the federal government shutdown, which listed the services and activities the department would maintain during the lapse in FY14 appropriations. 

2.       Penny Pritzker Sworn in as 38th U.S. Secretary of Commerce: Post on the swearing in of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, including a video of Vice President Joe Biden swearing her in and the secretary’s speech at the ceremony. 

3.       USPTO Honors Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees: Post on 17 of America’s greatest innovators, who the USPTO inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame during a ceremony at their headquarters. 

4.       Secretary Pritzker Outlines Bold Policy Agenda Focused on U.S. Trade and Investment, Innovation, and Data: Post on Secretary Pritzker’s unveiling of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” including a video of the secretary’s remarks at the agenda unveiling. 

5.       Doing Business in Africa Forum Presents Opportunities for American Businesses in Sub-Saharan Region: Guest post from Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez and MBDA National Director David Hinson on a Doing Business in Africa Forum at the White House. 

6.       NOAA Provides Easy Access to Historical Hurricane Tracks: Post on NOAA’s Historical Hurricane Tracks website, which provides more than 150 years of Atlantic hurricane tracking data and global hurricane data from as far back as 1842, among other data.