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Blog Category: Workforce Training

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Touts Importance of Workforce Development at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Touts Importance of Workforce Development at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today toured the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), a campus where academia, the private sector, and government organizations are working together to research and develop leading-edge technologies, and educate and train students for jobs in the automotive industry.

Ensuring that America has a strong and skilled workforce is essential to our economic competitiveness, and that is why Secretary Pritzker has made workforce development a key pillar of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”  In fact, she is the first Commerce Secretary to focus on how we can best prepare workers with in-demand job skills. The Commerce Department is playing a key role in this effort by partnering with businesses and other federal agencies to facilitate industry-driven training programs.

CU-ICAR is one example of an educational institution working directly with the private sector to conduct research and training that meets the needs of industry. Since collaboration between academia, the private sector and government started in 2003, CU-ICAR has grown into a 250-acre campus educating students and conducting research that is relevant to the global automotive community. CU-ICAR is studying advanced and highly efficient engine concepts that utilize a variety of fuels, developing technologies that increase vehicle electrification and efficiency, developing and utilizing advanced materials and processes that can reduce vehicle weight and decrease manufacturing costs. CU-ICAR is also working on identifying opportunities and technologies to reduce energy consumption in factories, and addressing issues of safety by designing improved human-machine interfaces and vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

Deputy Secretary Blank Highlights Workforce Skills Development as Key to Attracting Investment, Creating Good Jobs

Yesterday, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank delivered keynote remarks at an event focused on the importance of developing a skilled workforce in order to attract more investment and create more good jobs.

The event, hosted by German Ambassador Peter Ammon, attracted CEOs of German-owned companies that have invested in the United States (such as STIHL, BMW, Volkswagen, and Siemens) as well as leaders of U.S. community colleges, universities, and think tanks. 

Blank cited key Obama administration programs that are strengthening the links between colleges and employers–ensuring that more graduates are ready to fill jobs that are open right now in areas such as advanced manufacturing. She also praised the German Embassy’s newly-announced “Skills Initiative,” an effort to help more German companies form partnerships to train American workers and expand their operations in the U.S.

Blank emphasized that education and training are crucial not only for helping individual workers find good jobs, but also for fostering a deeper pool of talented and skilled citizens throughout society. She noted that the U.S. has historically led the way to establish free public education and world-class public universities. She also cited Germany’s unique “dual system”–a model that blends education with hands-on training–which is well-known for helping young people who have graduated high school but who are not pursuing four-year degrees.

Blank stressed the importance of continued leadership and partnership between the U.S. and Germany overall, noting that hundreds of thousands of Americans go to work each day at German companies that operate in the U.S., and vice versa.

Community Colleges as Economic Engines

Terry Calaway, President, Johnson County Community College

Guest blog by Terry Calaway, President, Johnson County Community College

ED NOTE: With 50,000 students a year enrolled in credit and noncredit classes, Johnson County Community College is the state’s largest institution of higher education. JCCC offers a full range of undergraduate credit courses and 50 career and certificate programs that prepare students for employment. JCCC’s noncredit workforce development program is the largest, most comprehensive in the Kansas City area.

Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Overland Park, Kansas, was fortunate to host Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank during her visit to Kansas City July 23. We were honored to show the Acting Secretary the facility on campus we share with BNSF Railway in a model partnership of industry and education, one that demonstrates how community colleges can serve as economic engines for the county.

Because Kansas City is one of the most important freight transportation hubs in the Midwest, BNSF is building a 443-acre intermodal facility in the southern part of Johnson County, Kansas (a Kansas City suburb). The facility will help the region’s economy grow by shifting more freight traffic from the highway to the rails. The increasing demand to move more freight by rail coupled with the number of current rail workers who will be retiring means that freight railroads will hire more than 15,000 employees this year alone.

JCCC is prepared for these changes, thanks to a long and beneficial relationship with BNSF Railway. The college first entered into partnership discussions with BNSF in 1986. The result is the largest railroad training facility in the country, founded on the college campus. Originally intended to train only BNSF employees, the training center over the years has come to serve other railroads as well. As many as 14,000 railroad employees come to JCCC each year for training from the United States and Mexico.