A skilled manufacturing workforce is central to America’s future economic success. In order to best equip workers for 21st century jobs, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has for the first time made skills development a top priority for the Department of Commerce. As part of these efforts, Secretary Pritzker spoke today about the importance of industry-driven skills training at a conference titled “Skills Training for a Modern Manufacturing Workforce: Does the German Model Have Lessons for the United States?” Sponsored by the Aspen Institute, the German Embassy, the Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT), and the German Center for Research and Innovation, the conference highlighted successful U.S. and German approaches to workforce development and how the two countries can collaborate to strengthen the competiveness of both economies.
Skilled workers make businesses more productive, and expanded training opportunities boost workers’ average lifetime earnings. But matching training initiatives to industry needs can be a challenge. Germany’s “dual track” vocational training tradition successfully addresses the needs of both workers and businesses. Pairing classroom instruction with hands-on apprenticeship opportunities, the dual track system gives students the opportunity to gain real-life experience and supplies a pipeline of talent for businesses. In May 2012, the German Embassy launched its “Skills Initiative” to introduce Germany’s dual system of training to U.S. companies. The program brings together German companies with U.S. state and local government officials, education leaders, training providers, and other stakeholders to create workforce development programs best suited to German business needs in the U.S. market.
Likewise, the United States is working to ensure that Americans are prepared for the labor force by breaking down silos between the public and private sectors. The Department of 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 create programs that match workers’ skills to the needs of businesses. Earlier this spring, Secretary Pritzker traveled to Pittsburgh with President Obama and Vice President Biden, where they announced $100 million in competitive grants to support apprenticeships and a nearly $500 million grant competition to support partnerships between community colleges, employers, and industry associations that will help develop job-driven training programs.
In her remarks this morning, Secretary Pritzker also discussed the work of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), which sheco-chairs. AMP is piloting four apprenticeship programs, two of which are led by Dow, Alcoa, and Siemens. These companies are teaming up with community colleges in Northern California and Southern Texas to train welders to work with high-performance alloys and to train maintenance technicians. The work of companies like Siemens North America to reproduce these effective training models are proven to spur job creation and grow our manufacturing capabilities.
For the world to benefit from the ingenuity and innovation at the core of American and German success, skills training must continue to be a top priority. U.S.-German cooperation is key to strengthening both economies and these ongoing initiatives will help us develop a strong, educated, flexible, and dynamic American manufacturing workforce.