Guest Blog Post by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker
A strong, skilled American workforce is essential to ensuring that U.S. businesses are able to compete in the global economy. In the 2014 State of the Union Address, President Obama asked that I join Vice President Biden, Secretary Perez, and Secretary Duncan to lead a review of federal training programs, to ensure that these programs prepare workers for the jobs that are available right now. On Tuesday we presented our findings and recommendations to the President at an event at the White House. President Obama also signed H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which will help improve business engagement and accountability across federally-funded training programs.
As a business leader of 27 years, I know the importance of hiring skilled workers. In our “Open for Business Agenda,” the Department of Commerce is making workforce development a top priority for the first time ever. While the Department does not directly fund job training programs, many of our initiatives support efforts to match workers to local industry needs. The Economic Development Administration (EDA) and National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) in particular have taken significant leadership roles in the Department’s skilled workforce policy. For example, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) funds critical efforts that help communities address local economic needs, including workforce needs. In addition, the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) works with manufacturers around the country to help them improve their processes and create and retain jobs.
Commerce is coordinating with other federal partners to leverage support for job-driven training initiatives. For example, we are working in coordination with the Department of Labor (DOL) on their Center for Workforce & Industry Partnerships (CWIP), which will bring together key agencies across the federal government to support workforce and industry partnerships and form a common vision and approach to partnerships. To better align economic development and workforce development goals, EDA is working to develop stronger ties between EDA Regional Offices and Department of Labor (DOL) regional offices, and is incorporating job-driven training principles into its new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies guidelines for economic development districts. Also, NIST MEP is working closely with DOL’s Registered Apprenticeships Program to spread awareness of their resources to common clients. In fact, MEP and DOL co-hosted a webinar on these programs last week, and MEP helped DOL host an advanced manufacturing industry roundtable in Chicago last month to inform the upcoming solicitation for federal apprenticeship funding, one of the major announcements to come out of the Administration’s work on job-driven training.
We are also leveraging Commerce data to develop new tools for connecting job-seekers to available positions. Today, at the 21st Century Career Counseling Jobs Data Jam in Baltimore, Md., Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez spoke with technology leaders and app developers to explore opportunities to use government data to help workers find jobs and training opportunities.
The Department of Commerce is leveraging our resources and will continue to collaborate with our other interagency partners, as well as businesses and educational institutions, to ensure that both workers and businesses get the best out of workforce skills programs. The report we presented on Tuesday offers a blueprint for our future actions to help more Americans climb the ladder of opportunity.