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.