There are 3.9 million unfilled jobs in the United States and many of these jobs, in fields such as healthcare, manufacturing, and engineering, require post-secondary training, and some unemployed workers find that their skills are incompatible with the requirements needed for these new high-tech jobs. In order to help more Americans get back to work, it is essential to align workers’ skills with the needs of industry employers.
For the first time ever, the Commerce Department is making skills a top priority and is working closely with the Labor and Education Departments to ensure that every American has the skills needed to compete in today’s economy. That means more on-the-job training and more apprenticeships that help train American workers with the skills employers need, and match them to good quality jobs that lead to a career path.
Community colleges and technical colleges are a major part of the solution. Every day, these institutions provide 13 million students across the country with the education they need to be competitive in today’s economy. These two-year institutions continue to improve the quality and relevance of the education that their students receive. Last week, Secretary Pritzker explored the partnership between BMW and three of South Carolina’s local technical colleges. Through the BMW Scholars Program, students have the opportunity to rotate through the body shops, paint shops, and assembly lines, gaining hands-on experience in the field. These college-business apprenticeships are just one example of new ways to better place students on direct paths to good jobs while providing strong candidates to businesses.
The rules of the job market are changing: firms are requiring candidates to have stronger skills sets to remain competitive, and community colleges are helping provide the skills these candidates need. Groups like the American Association of Community Colleges provide a voice for these community colleges, and the U.S. Department of Commerce will continue to partner with them, businesses, government and other regional and national institutions to ensure that America can continue to compete in a 21st century global economy.
In honor of her work to improve and expand workforce skills training, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will be presented with the Harry S. Truman Award by the American Association of Community Colleges on Saturday, April 4. The Truman Award recognizes leaders outside of the field of education for their major contributions to community colleges. Past honorees have included President Obama, President Clinton, and Senator Kennedy. Secretary Pritzker will be receiving the award for her previous work in education and training and her current advocacy for skill development as an administration-wide priority.
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