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Blog Category: Skills training

Commerce in the Community: Rising Tide Capital works to improve traditionally disadvantaged communities by empowering local entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses.

Alex Forrester, Co-Founder and Cheif Operations Officer of Rising Tide Capital

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Commerce in the Community series highlighting the work of community leaders and organizations that are strengthening the middle class and providing ladders of opportunity for all Americans.

Below is an interview with Alex Forrester, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer of Rising Tide Capital, a nonprofit organization that provides high-quality business education and consulting to low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs in Northern NJ. Rising Tide Capital has achieved national recognition for its approach to economic empowerment of low-income individuals and communities through entrepreneurship. In 2009, Rising Tide Capital was selected as a CNN Hero and recognized by President Barack Obama in a White House speech on innovative non-profit organizations.

Q1: Tell us about Rising Tide Capital. What is your mission and main focus?

Rising Tide Capital is a nonprofit organization committed to the economic empowerment of low-income families and communities through entrepreneurship. By providing high-quality business education and consulting services and by partnering with local microfinance agencies, our goal is to help create jobs and economic opportunity in the neighborhoods that need them most by investing in the success of the talented men and women who live there.

We believe in the value of the work we do at Rising Tide Capital because it leverages an immense amount of entrepreneurial activity that is already going on in low-income neighborhoods and tries to invest in those efforts in ways that can confront the extremely challenging context of working poverty in modern America. Due to unemployment, underemployment, and low-wage work, many urban communities have large numbers of poor and working-poor families. These families struggle with financial self-sufficiency and often have difficulty covering basic expenses like rent and electricity. The emotional and psychological stress of financial insecurity—and the anxiety and depression that so often develops—is at the root of what keeps poor communities poor.

Secretary Pritzker Talks About Two Keys to an Innovative and Competitive Economy: a Skilled Workforce and Entrepreneurship

Secretary Pritzker Talks About Two Keys to an Innovative and Competitive Economy: a Skilled Workforce and Entrepreneurship

Innovation is key to supporting economic growth and creating jobs in the United States. In order to ensure that the United States stays competitive, the Department of Commerce works to create the conditions that empower Americans to turn their ideas into successful businesses, grow their ventures, and create jobs.

Wednesday, on the third day of the Ed Innovation Summit in Scottsdale, Ariz., Secretary Pritzker spoke with former Washington Post executive editor Len Downie about what the Department of Commerce is doing to support innovation. Secretary Pritzker shared that since taking office almost one year ago, she has spoken to more than 1,000 CEOs and business leaders, including more than 150 of Fortune 500 companies, around the country. One of the top concerns they have shared is the challenge of finding the workers with the right skills to fill available jobs, which is a threat to our nation’s long-term competitiveness. In order to best equip workers for the jobs that are available now, and will be available in the future, Secretary Pritzker has made skills development a top priority for the Department of Commerce for the very first time.

Central to this effort is breaking down silos between the public and private sectors to create programs that match workers’ skills to the needs of businesses. 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 do just that. Earlier this month, 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 association that will help develop job-driven training programs -- a first for the Department.

Another important aspect driving innovation is encouraging a start-up culture in which entrepreneurs can thrive. However, as Secretary Pritzker mentioned during her Ed Innovation talk, the rate of new business formation is actually declining in the United States. Research indicates that new and young companies are responsible for virtually all new job growth across the United States, so supporting entrepreneurship is a priority for the Administration.

Earlier this month, President Obama announced the inaugural members of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE). Chaired by Secretary Pritzker, PAGE is an initiative to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs across the globe and right here in the United States. The 11 PAGE members will participate in an ongoing dialogue with policy makers globally to discuss how to create an environment in which creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship can grow and thrive. They will also participate in outreach and mentorship activities to help promote a start-up culture, and energize their own personal and professional networks to challenge, inspire, and educate budding entrepreneurs.

Following her armchair discussion at the Ed Innovation Summit, Secretary Pritzker toured SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, and met with local entrepreneurs. SkySong is a mixed use development designed to help companies grow by providing business services and programs offered or facilitated by Arizona State University, which include access to new technologies, capital networks, and a skilled workforce.

In her roundtable with SkySong's entrepreneurs, Secretary Pritzker discussed ways in which the federal government can serve as a catalyst to innovation. For example, the Department of Commerce protects entrepreneurs' intellectual property through the Patent and Trademark Office, enabling innovators to capitalize on their ideas. Another part of the Commerce Department, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), makes investments that help fund business incubators like SkySong. In fact, EDA helped create SkySong's technology transfer accelerator, known as Furnace, in 2012.

The investments in entrepreneurs have already paid off for Arizona. According to a 2012 study by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, SkySong-based companies, which range from start-ups to large companies like Ticketmaster and Recruiting.com, have generated more than $460 million in economic impact for the Greater Phoenix area since SkySong's inception in 2008.

As part of its mission to help create an environment that stimulates economic growth and job creation, the Department of Commerce is dedicated to identifying and supporting successful programs for workforce training and entrepreneurship.

Delivering an American Economic Comeback

Guest blog post by Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce

All Americans love a comeback story. And that is the story that President Obama weaved in his powerful State of the Union address.

Thanks to the grit, resilience and hard work of the American people and our businesses, more than 2 million jobs were created last year and we hit the lowest unemployment rate in more than five years. We have a manufacturing sector that has added over half-a-million jobs. Our stock market is booming. We have record exports. Our housing market is rebounding. And we've cut our deficits by more than half.

And while we have more work to do to lift incomes, expand opportunity for our people and help businesses with the tools they need to grow and hire, both President Obama and I are optimistic about America's future.

We both know that 2014 can be a breakthrough year for America, and we are better positioned for this century than any nation on earth.

Secretary Pritzker Tours BMW Factory and Training Facilities in Germany

Groupf photo of Pritzker and apprentice training program students

Following the announcement of her strategic vision for the Department of Commerce last week, which includes a focus on ensuring that workers are prepared with the skills that employers need, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today toured BMW's training facilities at their headquarters in Munich, Germany with CEO Dr. Norbert Reithofer and Head of Apprentice Training Jan Eggert.  

Secretary Pritzker went to BMW to learn more about how the company implements the German Dual System of Vocational training, through which students receive a technical degree at a local educational institution while simultaneously participating in on-the-job training. BMW has a unique apprenticeship program, which is currently training 4,500 apprentices worldwide with the skills the company anticipates it will need from future employees. BMW has spent 1.2 billion euros on professional development since 2007.

While the majority of BMW apprentices are located in Germany, the company is expanding its program internationally, including at their Spartanburg, South Carolina plant. BMW employs more than 7,000 workers in South Carolina, and they have 70 apprentices at the facility who they are training for BMW careers. The apprenticeship program in Spartanburg has been in place since 2011 and works with three local technical colleges. 

Secretary Pritzker has made skills development a top priority of the Commerce Department for the very first time, and is encouraging businesses to partner with local education institutions on programs that train high-quality workers for in-demand jobs. She will work closely with her counterparts, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, on these workforce training initiatives. BMW's model is one that can help inform these efforts.

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Discusses Tackling the Skills Gap

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling with members of the Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships

Millions of jobs have been created in the years since the recession ended, but many Americans are still out of work. In fact, there are about 4 million job openings right now, and yet about 4 million Americans have been job-searching more than 6 months. Many employers simply cannot find workers with the skills necessary to do the jobs available.

Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships (BLU) is working to address the skills mis-match by creating sector partnerships that align employers’ hiring needs with local and regional training systems.  Yesterday, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joined Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling to speak to BLU about what the Administration is doing to invest in workforce skills training and to hear about ways employers are proactively developing partnerships to create a pipeline of skilled workers in their local areas.

Business leaders cited how their initiative, investments, and partnerships with local community colleges, Workforce Investment Boards, non-profits, and each other industry peers and others have reduced nursing shortages in Louisville; helped the long-term unemployed train for and gain employment in the financial services industry in southern California; and developed an electrical contracting apprenticeship program with 100% job placement in Tennessee. An export-oriented metal forming manufacturer in Minnesota described how he has worked with local community and technical colleges to create certificate programs to develop the skilled workforce the company needs.