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Promoting Opportunity for All Americans Through Mentoring

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Last week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker participated in a Cabinet discussion with President Obama on My Brother’s Keeper – an initiative designed to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. The President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force also released their first progress report with initial recommendations to the President, as well as a blueprint for action by government, business, non-profit and community partners. 

Since its launch in February 2014, the President’s Task Force has met with and heard from thousands of Americans who are already taking action on this front. Further, businesses, cities, organizations and individuals have made commitments to helping youth get a strong start in school and later connect them to support networks and specialized skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way up into the middle class.
 
In developing its recommendations, the Task Force identified key milestones in the path to adulthood that are especially predictive of later success, and where interventions can have the greatest impact. These recommendations included:
 
·         Getting a health start and entering school ready to learn;
·         Reading at grade level by third grade;
·         Graduating from high school ready for college and career; 
·         Completing post-secondary education or training;
·         Successfully entering the workforce; and
·         Keeping kids on track and giving them second chances.
 
Specific report recommendations also include launching a public-private campaign to recruit mentors for youth and improve the quality of mentoring programs, and to increase awareness about youth summer employment and use of pre-apprenticeships as good entry-level jobs.  
 
Improving life prospects for young people, including those of color, is good not just for those individuals but benefits our entire economy. The U.S. Commerce Department, for the first time, has made skills development a top priority as part of its “Open for Business Agenda.” Commerce is working closely with the Departments of Education and Labor, as well as businesses, training organizations, academic institutions, and state and local governments to support programs that match workers’ skills to the needs of businesses.
 
As part of those efforts,  to ensure that we give workers all the tools and training they need to make them competitive in a global marketplace, Secretary Pritzker has worked closely with President Obama, Vice President Biden and other cabinet secretaries to find concrete, collaborative solutions to make the workforce and training system more job-driven, integrated and effective. Earlier this month, Secretary Pritzker joined the President and Vice President in Pittsburgh, to announce $100 million in competitive grants to support apprenticeships and a nearly $500 million grant competition to support partnerships between community colleges, employers, and industry association that will help develop job-driven training programs.
 
The actions by the Department of Commerce and the recommendations identified as part of the President’s Task Force are just the starting point of what must and will be a long-term effort to help ensure young people can succeed. The Task Force and public, private and philanthropic actors will continue to develop recommendations and support community solutions well beyond this 90-day progress report and the Commerce Department will continue working closely with them to ensure that all young people have the tools they need to build successful lives.

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