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Blog Category: Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

A Joint Imperative to Strengthen Skills

A Joint Imperative to Strengthen Skills

Guest blog post by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

As two of the newest members of President Obama’s cabinet, we’ve both spent the past few months lending a fresh set of eyes and ears to the opportunities and challenges facing middle-class workers and American businesses. One concern facing both communities that requires our full attention and our joint efforts is making sure that every American has the skills needed to succeed in the workforce.

This week we visited Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) in Maryland, where we were joined by U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer, to hear from local business, education, labor, and government leaders about the importance of skills training as both a workforce development and an economic development imperative.

In 2011 Anne Arundel Community College received a $19.7 million grant from the Labor Department to lead the National STEM Consortium, which is made up of 10 community colleges in nine states. Together, they’re working with employers, labor unions, and industry groups to develop certificate programs designed to train workers for mid-skill technical careers that have a high volume of openings in a particular region. Over the next decade, more than half of the new jobs created will be middle skills jobs meaning they require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree.

For Army veteran and current AACC student Gary Pollard, the National STEM Consortium has meant a second shot at serving his country, this time as a trained cyber security analyst ready to take on one of the 15,000 related job openings in Maryland alone. The National STEM Consortium is just one example of the type of partnership that can be replicated around the country as we work to find ways to ensure American workers have the skills employers are looking for when they want to hire.

Secretary Pritzker Wheels Around the United Bicycle Institute in Portland, Oregon

Today, as part of Secretary Penny Pritzker’s nationwide listening tour, she toured the United Bicycle Institute in Portland, Oregon. It is the bicycle industry’s leading technical school offering courses in repair, frame building, and mechanic certification for technicians. She also held a roundtable discussion with representatives from the bicycle industry.

In 2012, Bicycling magazine rated Portland as the No. 1 cycling city in the U.S. The United Bicycle Institute (UBI) has established itself as a critical part of the cycling culture in the region. UBI has two facilities, the main facility in Ashland, Oregon and the Portland facility, which includes a 3,000 square foot mechanics classroom and a 2,400 square foot frame building shop.  Founded in 1981, UBI has educated nearly 20,000 students since it opened, many of whom have gone on to careers in the bicycle industry. 

During her tour, Secretary Pritzker viewed the mechanics classroom where students work on a component-by component study of bicycle repair, as well as a study of the bicycle as a complete system. This enables mechanics to work on all types of bicycles. She also visited the frame room, where students are taught by master frame builders. The course of study provides certification for students who want to become professional frame builders. The frame building classes are intensive, but no prior frame building, welding or brazing experience is required. Students learn all the skills they need during the coursework.

Following her tour, Secretary Pritzker participated in a roundtable with business owners in the bicycle industry who expressed their optimism about their ability to grow in the future.

Portland was Secretary Pritzker’s 12th stop on her nationwide listening tour. She has been meeting with businesses, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and Department of Commerce employees. In these discussions, Secretary Pritzker has heard about their priorities, concerns and ideas on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs.

Secretary Pritzker Tours NOAA’s Western Regional Center in Seattle

Secretary Pritzker is joined by Commerce employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Western Regional Center in Seattle, Washington

As part of her nationwide listening tour, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker yesterday visited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Western Regional Center in Seattle, Washington, the largest NOAA facility outside of Washington, D.C. She thanked NOAA employees for their hard work, which she said was critical to Commerce’s mission. The Secretary also toured parts of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration and NOAA Fisheries Service. 

On the tour of the Western Regional Center, Secretary Pritzker learned specifically about two different kinds of tsunami detection buoys that NOAA has developed and has now been commercialized by private industry. The buoys are now built commercially and sold to many different countries, thus providing a standardized tsunami detection and warning system for the world as well as creating U.S. jobs and increasing U.S. exports.  A partnership between the National Weather Service and Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory has made tsunami forecasting and warning more accurate than ever before, while helping to promote the development of tsunami forecasting capabilities in other countries.

Secretary Pritzker also visited the Office of Response and Restoration where Secretary Pritzker learned about the tools they build and maintain that emergency responders depend on nationwide. These tools provide the best available science data to federal, state, and local responders when they need it most, predicting chemical reactions, oil spill and marine debris trajectories, and oil weathering during emergencies.  From preparedness and response through recovery, the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration protects the United States’ coastal and marine environment from threats including marine debris, releases from hazardous waste sites, and oil and chemical spills.

Secretary Pritzker Tours Year Up Skills Center in Seattle, Washington

Secretary Pritzker visiting the IT Apps class where students use office productivity applications to build their own business plan, which they present to the class as a final project.

Today, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Pritzker visited Year Up in Seattle, WA. Year Up is a national non-profit organization operating in 12 cities that provides urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to pursue professional careers and higher education.

She toured the facilities with Lisa Chin, Executive Director of Year Up Puget Sound Seattle, and John Stanton, Year Up Board Chair. On the tour she saw a Business Communications class where students learn the fundamentals of effective communication in a professional setting.  Some of the skills taught include public speaking, email etiquette, and giving presentations in a business setting. She also visited the IT Apps class where students use office productivity applications to build their own business plan, which they present to the class as a final project.

Students at Year Up focus on learning skills and obtaining needed credentials during their first six months in the program. In the second six months, students apply those skills through corporate sponsorships. Students can earn up to 23 college credits during their year of study. Year Up is an excellent of example of how employers, community colleges and non-profits can come together to teach young adults the skills valued by employers.

Secretary Pritzker Meets With Commerce Employees in Houston

Secretary Penny Pritzker meets with Houston-area Commerce Employees.

While in Houston, Texas today, Secretary Pritzker visited a U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), part of the International Trade Administration (ITA), and met with USEAC employees and employees from the Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS) Houston field office. The secretary's visit was part of her latest stop on a nationwide listening tour and was an opportunity to thank the employees for their work for the Department of Commerce. 

USEACs are the domestic arm of ITA’s U.S. Commercial Service, which is comprised of an extensive network of trade specialists located in more than 100 U.S. cities and 80 countries worldwide. The specialists help American companies start exporting or expand their international business presence. Specific services include: world class market research; trade events that promote companies’ product or service to qualified buyers; introductions to buyers and distributors; and counseling and advocacy through every step of the export process.The Houston USEAC in particular has been working with companies in the energy, information technology and transportation sectors to support and increase U.S. exports.

The secretary also met with representatives from BIS’ Houston field office. The Houston office’s mission is to protect U.S. national and domestic security, foreign policy and economic interests. BIS operates a law enforcement program focused on sensitive exports to hostile entities or those that engage in onward proliferation, prohibited foreign boycotts and related public safety laws. The office accomplishes its mission through preventative and investigative enforcement activities and then pursuing appropriate criminal and administrative sanctions against export violators.

Secretary Penny Pritzker Announces $600,000 Investment to Support Entrepreneurship and Job Creation in Louisiana

Secretary Penny Pritzker hears from entrepreneurs at Idea Village in New Orleans, Louisana

Secretary Penny Pritzker today announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $600,000 grant to The Idea Village, Inc., of New Orleans, La., to support programs that assist entrepreneurs in building their businesses and creating jobs. Secretary Pritzker is in New Orleans today as part of her nationwide listening tour, and made the announcement at The Idea Village after meeting with local entrepreneurs, mentors and business leaders.

The EDA investment announced today will support more than 300 businesses, according to grantee estimates. Specifically, it will fund additional technical assistance programs, especially in such growing fields as technology, biomedical engineering, and media production; help with expansion of The Idea Village’s successful “Entrepreneur Season,” a six-month-long program of business assistance and education; and support more forums, workshops, and networking sessions that will be offered during New Orleans’ Entrepreneur Week. EDA previously awarded two grants to The Idea Village – $800,000 in 2009 and $400,000 in 2011 – which helped the organization build their capacity to assist entrepreneurs.

To learn more about the U.S. Economic Development Administration, visit www.eda.gov.

The 50th Anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" Speech and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: August 28

View of the National Mall teeming with thousands around the Reflecting Pool (photo: National Archives)

On Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to more than 200,000 people from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. His famous "I Have a Dream" speech and the march were key moments in the American Civil Rights Movement.  To mark the anniversary, the U.S. Census Bureau has gathered key statistics that measure changes in some aspects of the black population to date.

There has been tremendous progress over the past 50 years. The diversity that we see in the classrooms and boardrooms around the country is a testament to that. And that impulse towards making sure everybody gets a fair shot is one that found expression in the Civil Rights Movement, but then spread to include Latinos and immigrants and gays and lesbians. “As we reflect back on the progress made over the last five decades, there still remains a lot of work to ensure that everyone who works hard can succeed, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation,” Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in an anniversary statement.

On August 23, President Obama signed a Presidential Proclamation commemorating the 50th  Anniversary of the March in 1963. Review the U.S. Census Bureau’s Facts for Features Special Edition for information about population, voting, elected officials, income, housing and many other demographic categories.

Commerce Announces $15 Million to Boost Competitiveness of U.S. Manufacturers

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced $15 million in U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants to support 11 Trade Adjustment Assistance Centers (TAACs) in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington that help manufacturers affected by imports adjust to increasing global competition and create jobs.

“The Obama administration is committed to providing communities with the resources they need to succeed in a global marketplace,” Secretary Pritzker said. “The grants announced today will strengthen the competitiveness of the U.S. economy by providing funding for programs that help companies make improvements in such critical areas as advanced manufacturing, engineering, marketing, quality control, information technology, and market development.”

Secretary Pritzker Visits Census Bureau’s Atlanta Regional Office

Secretary Pritzker meets with Reggie Bigham (Deputy Regional Director) and Katrina Carter (Assistant Regional Director) of the Census Bureau's Atlanta Regional Office on Friday, August 23.

Earlier today, Secretary Pritzker visited the Census Bureau’s Atlanta Regional Office. She met with Census Bureau employees as well as staff from the Economic Development Administration and Minority Business Development Agency. Her latest stop on her listening tour, and the first at a Census Bureau regional office, gave her the opportunity to thank the employees for their hard work collecting the data that allows the Census Bureau to measure America’s people, places and economy.

The Census Bureau’s six regional offices form the backbone of the data collection process. Field representatives in the Atlanta region follow up with respondents from South Carolina to Louisiana to gather data for surveys such as the American Community Survey, which provides the only local statistics available for every neighborhood in the nation.

Secretary Pritzker toured the regional office and thanked staff for their hard work and dedication to gathering data critical to the nation: “The information you collect helps government at all levels — federal, state and local. Your data is critical for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to make good decisions. I’ve discussed the importance of the Census Bureau to the President himself, and we talked about how we need to capitalize on our data-rich environment to promote the administration’s initiatives.”

Atlanta Regional Office Deputy Director Reggie Bigham, along with assistant director Katrina Carter, led the office tour. He thanked Secretary Pritzker for including Atlanta on her tour: “We are thankful that you have taken the time to visit our regional office and that you took the time to personally hear from our staff about the many quality activities we perform to collect the vital statistics needed for our nation. We look forward to hearing from you about your vision for our organization as members of the Department of Commerce.”

Secretary Pritzker Tours Global Center for Medical Innovation in Atlanta, Georgia

Secretary Pritzker views a prototyping machine at the Global Center for Medical Innovation

Today, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Pritzker visited the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) in Atlanta, Ga. GCMI is an independent, non-profit organization that works with universities, research centers, and investors to help accelerate the commercialization of innovative medical technology.

GCMI, which opened in 2010, houses facilities that local entrepreneurs can use to design, engineer, and build their products, and provides access to a growing network of experts that can help bring cutting edge ideas to market. The secretary toured the facility with GCMI executives and CEOs from two of the four startup businesses that reside at GCMI.

During her tour, Secretary Pritzker learned about some of the daily on-site activities at GCMI, including medical device design engineering and prototyping, and explored the organization’s design lab. She also learned about the center’s rapid prototype machine, which is a 3D printer that enables innovators, and entrepreneurs to bring their ideas from concept to reality in a matter of hours. Typically, prototypes take days or weeks to manufacture. GCMI is able to support a relationship between Georgia Tech and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta to develop and commercialize new medical devices for the pediatric market. They are also helping an Atlanta-based entrepreneur and an inventor from Georgia Tech develop a functional prototype to help quadriplegics GAIN greater mobility.

Secretary Pritzker also met with some of the students who are part of GCMI’s apprentice program. This program provides opportunities to students and recent graduates from leading engineering and medical schools around the country who participate in a range of development activities that help bring new medical technology from the lab to the clinic.