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The Apprentice: A Tale of Life, Love and Much Else

Guest blog post by Stacey Wagner, crossposted from the NIST Manufacturing Innovation Blog.

When I was growing up, I was fascinated by apprenticeships – really!  I was an avid reader of history, ancient and otherwise, and apprenticeships always meant adventure.  One could apprentice with Greek philosophers, British knights, Teutonic alchemists, and farmers, tradespeople and barbers (who were also doctors).  You could apprentice in a household or a business.  And once your apprenticeship was complete, you commanded respect as a trained and educated person with skills to play a useful role in society.

Apprenticeships have always been a stepping stone for both a good job and a great story.  Those tantalizing tales I read as a kid centered, mostly, on a young person’s indenture to some mysterious craftsperson and it always lead to mischief: wild chases, first-time love affairs, and messy screw-ups.  But they also led to the apprentice learning about life, love and labor – specifically the skills to be someone you weren’t before, but better.

The master-storyteller, Walt Disney, even got into the act when he produced the iconic movie, “Fantasia,” with a scene called The Sorcerers’ Apprentice, which to this day still spooks me.  There are also plenty of modern-day books about apprentices: “The Apprentice” (Lewis Libby), “The Apprentice” (Tess Gerritsen), “The Apprentice Series” (James Bryan Smith) and “Rangers Apprentice” (John Flanagan), to name just a few, and a TV show by that name as well (I know I don’t need to tell you who stars in that!). In the modern vernacular, the term sorcerers’ apprentice, was immortalized by “The Sorcerers’ Apprentice,” a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe written in 1797.

Spotlight on Commerce: Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to the Open for Business Agenda Strategic Plan.

Guest blog post by Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

I was born in Saigon, five years before the Vietnam War ended. My family made a tough decision, one that benefitted me for a lifetime. My mother, five aunts, one uncle, four sisters and I were airlifted to the U.S. as Saigon fell. When we arrived in Chantilly, Virginia, we had very little.  But, we had each other, the support of a local church and our public school. My mother and aunts taught us about our Vietnamese and Chinese heritages, which fortunately centered around great food. Just as important, they pushed us to learn English and become thoroughly integrated in the American experience. I’ve been given the opportunity in my lifetime to take the best from both worlds—from my Asian heritage and from the rich diversity that is America. The values I extrapolated from both backgrounds are so similar and are shared across the globe—dedication to family, hard work, respect of others and their cultures and faiths.  I’m as likely to watch a Washington Nationals game with either Vietnamese banh mi sandwich or a hot dog.

I graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in history, high hopes and no job.  I’d like to tell you that I’m here because I executed each element of my master plan perfectly or that I had good fortune. But, opportunities don’t just happen without context. I applied hard earned skills and landed an internship at the White House. I worked hard to perfect my technical skills, becoming expert on every administration department and agency.  I became a valued member of the team, in large measure, because no one else wanted to do the huge volume of detailed, non-political, technical work.  But I learned something else even more valuable—that leaders in politics are often in short supply, peace and prosperity don’t just happen and that enlightened leadership was more critical than the technical aspects of my work. I was genuinely willing to learn from those I believed were the best leaders, and they were willing to share their experience and wisdom with me. I got hooked on Washington and this inexplicable political world in which we operate.

Secretary Pritzker First-Ever Commerce Secretary to Visit Burma

As the first-ever U.S. Commerce Secretary to visit Burma, Secretary Penny Pritzker today encouraged Burmese leaders to continue making positive political and economic reforms to bolster U.S. private sector interest in the region.

Secretary Pritzker met Burmese President Thein Sein and discussed the ways our two countries can continue working together to improve the U.S.-Burma commercial relationship. Pritzker also met with Vice President Nyan Tun and various Burmese ministers and outlined ways in which the Commerce Department can help Burma increase trade with U.S. firms.  She reassured the Burmese leadership that U.S. businesses want to be part of the solution as countries across the region look to support a growing middle class, develop world-class infrastructure, unleash sustainable energy, and invest in their futures.

U.S. companies have made significant investments in the ASEAN region, which reached nearly $190 billion in 2012. That is more than U.S. investment in all of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) combined. ASEAN investment into the U.S. exceeds $27 billion and investment has grown over 1,400% and has increased 169% since 2001. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates Burma’s GDP growth accelerated to 7.5 percent in 2013, and expects that growth to continue. As the economy in countries like Burma continues to open, there will be expansive opportunities for U.S. companies to export more goods and services, supporting the modernization and development that will improve the quality of life for citizens.

Secretary Pritzker was joined by a delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.  Earlier this week, the delegation visited Vietnam and the Philippines where Secretary Pritzker met with government and business leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss the Commerce Department’s priorities for increasing trade and investment in the region.

Secretary Pritzker’s trip to the Asia-Pacific region demonstrates the importance of the region to the Obama Administration and the U.S. business community, and our shared commitment to increasing U.S. commercial activity with countries in the ASEAN region.

NTIA Releases Interim Progress Report on Administration’s Plan to Free Up More Spectrum

Cross-post by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration

NTIA today released the Fourth Interim Progress Report on the Obama Administration’s initiative to identify and make available 500 megahertz of federal and non-federal spectrum for commercial wireless broadband use by 2020. This report also includes a plan for federal agencies to conduct quantitative assessments of their actual spectrum usage in 960 megahertz of additional spectrum, as directed in President Obama’s June 2013 Memorandum.

America’s future competitiveness and global technology leadership depend on access to radio spectrum – the lifeblood of smartphones, tablets, and other data-hungry wireless devices.  That is why President Obama’s June 2010 Memorandum set a bold goal of nearly doubling the amount of spectrum available for commercial use by the end of this decade. Between October 2010 and September 2013, NTIA formally recommended or otherwise identified for potential reallocation up to 405 megahertz of spectrum.

On June 14, 2013, President Obama issued a second memorandum that builds on the Administration’s commitment to make additional spectrum available for wireless use.  The memorandum established a set of measures that federal agencies, in collaboration with industry and other stakeholders, will take to more aggressively enhance spectrum efficiency and enable access to more spectrum for consumer services and applications. Under the memorandum,  federal agencies  will be making quantitative assessments of their actual spectrum usage in certain bands that could potentially be made available for sharing with, or release to, commercial users, according to the plan set forth in this report.Today’s report outlines the progress made, in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission(FCC) and other federal agencies, from October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013. The key accomplishments last fiscal year include the following:

  • NTIA’s Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee concluded its groundbreaking work to explore relocation alternatives and spectrum sharing arrangements between federal agencies and commercial mobile broadband systems in the 1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1850 MHz bands.
  • NTIA released regulations and guidance implementing changes to the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act (CSEA) that provide eligible federal agencies incentives and financial assistance to facilitate the transition of the reallocated federal bands that the FCC will auction.
  • NTIA published an initial assessment on spectrum-sharing technologies and the risk to federal users if Unlicensed-National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices were authorized to operate in the 5350-5470 MHz and 5850-5925 MHz bands (5 GHz).

Secretary Pritzker Meets with Philippine President Aquino, Trade and Industry Secretary Domingo, and Finance Secretary Purisima

Secretary Pritzker meets with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III

As part of a week-long commercial diplomacy trip to the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is in the Philippines to demonstrate the Obama administration's ongoing commitment to Asia. Along with members of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council (USABC) and a delegation of U.S. CEOs, she is visiting the country to strengthen trade and investment and encourage deeper business-to-business ties.

The United States and the Philippines share a $24 billion per year trade relationship, one that was further bolstered by President Obama’s recent trip to the country in April. Today, Secretary Pritzker met with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, and yesterday with Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Gregory Domingo and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, to build on that strong U.S.-Philippine relationship.

Secretary Pritzker congratulated President Aquino for his successful leadership and commended both Secretary Domingo and Secretary Purisima on the Philippines’ recent economic accomplishments and reforms, which have resulted in strong growth. In fact, the country has doubled its GDP growth rate from 3.6 percent in 2011 to 7.2 percent in 2013. In addition, Secretary Pritzker noted that the already strong trade relationship between the Philippines and the United States has continued to grow, with U.S. exports to the Philippines increasing over the past year.

During the meetings, Secretary Pritzker reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the country and the ASEAN region and discussed opportunities for U.S. companies to support the Philippines’ infrastructure development needs, including the Clark International Airport. She also talked about outstanding U.S.-Philippine trade issues and steps the country could take to become an even more attractive destination for U.S. investment.

Data Expands the Tourism Industry

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse at Sunset in Acadia National Park.  Photo: Jeremy Stevens (www.sharetheexperience.org)

Every year thousands of visitors flock to the United States to explore the country and experience the culture. The travel and tourism industry has grown exponentially from 55 million international visitors in 2009 to 70 million in 2013.

Understanding the importance of this industry, President Obama recently set a goal to increase the numbers to 100 million visitors annually by the end of 2021. It’s a daunting number that may seem impossible, but state tourism offices all over America are jumping at the opportunity to expand and grow local businesses.

But how can these local businesses and tourism offices figure out the best ways to attract more visitors to their states?

One word: Data

The U.S. Department of Commerce recently released its 2013 report on International Visitation to the United States which outlines international visitor data for the following five categories:

Secretary Pritzker Promotes Entrepreneurship in the Philippines

Secretary Pritzker Promotes Entrepreneurship in the Philippines

Innovation and entrepreneurship are key drivers of economic growth, in the United States and around the world. As part of her commercial diplomacy mission to the Asia-Pacific region this week with leading American CEOs, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker participated in a roundtable with Philippine entrepreneurs to learn more about the business environment in the Philippines and discuss ways that the Obama Administration can support business creation. The roundtable was hosted by Kickstart, a startup incubator, and IdeaSpace, a non-profit that supports technology entrepreneurs.

Two months ago, Secretary Pritzker launched the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, which President Obama announced last fall. PAGE is a partnership between U.S. government and the private sector to inspire business creation in the United States and around the world.  As the inaugural members of PAGE, 11 successful American entrepreneurs committed to traveling the world to provide access to mentorship, education and other opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Today’s roundtable is part of a series of discussions that Secretary Pritzker is holding to learn more about the opportunities for new business creation, as well as the obstacles that entrepreneurs face in different countries.  During the Secretary’s trade mission to the Middle East in March, she sat down with 15 Saudi entrepreneurs in Riyadh and learned about their plans for growth and what they needed to foster an entrepreneurial community. Also, two weeks ago, she visited an incubator where Ghanian entrepreneurs were developing businesses that served customers in the United States and Europe. These forums are an invaluable chance for the Secretary to learn about barriers to things like capital and education.

Secretary Pritzker's trip demonstrates that United States is firmly committed to deepening U.S. engagement with the Asia-Pacific region, and recognizes that there is tremendous opportunity for mutually-beneficial growth in the ASEAN region. By helping to remove barriers to new business creation, the Commerce Department is working to unlock the entrepreneurial spirit that will generate prosperity for both the Philippines and the United States.

Research for 2020 Census Continues – Census Bureau Opens Temporary Office

Research for 2020 Census Continues – Census Bureau Opens Temporary Office

Guest blog post by John Thompson, Director, U.S. Census Bureau

Today, we marked an important milestone on the road to the 2020 Census with the opening of the Local Census Office for the 2014 Census Test. We will conduct the test in parts of Washington D.C. and Montgomery County, Md., and it was gratifying to see the community support for this important research endeavor.

Why is it so important to conduct this first of several field tests now? By investing in this research and testing, we can take steps to reduce the cost of the census and make it easier for people to respond. Those who are selected to participate in the 2014 Census Test are helping us produce a better census in 2020.

For the test, July 1, 2014, is Census Day, or the reference day for measuring the population of the test area. I strongly encourage you to participate, if selected, and be a part of building an innovative and cost-effective 2020 Census. Approximately 200,000 households will be included in the test. Respondents should fill out the questionnaire based on the people and circumstances of their household as of July 1, 2014.

Participating, if selected, is not the only way you can help us with the test. We are also hiring about 1,000 temporary workers locally to conduct it. If you live in the area and are interested in applying for a job, you can find more information here.

We will have a series of tests leading up to the 2020 Census and for the 2014 Census Test, some of our research will test Internet response. Although the 2010 Census did not offer it as an option, we have been using it for the American Community Survey and other surveys for several years now. Our enumerators will also use a smartphone app for quicker and more accurate data collection from non-responding households.

Promoting Opportunity for All Americans Through Mentoring

Last week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker participated in a Cabinet discussion with President Obama on My Brother’s Keeper – an initiative designed to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. The President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force also released their first progress report with initial recommendations to the President, as well as a blueprint for action by government, business, non-profit and community partners. 

Since its launch in February 2014, the President’s Task Force has met with and heard from thousands of Americans who are already taking action on this front. Further, businesses, cities, organizations and individuals have made commitments to helping youth get a strong start in school and later connect them to support networks and specialized skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way up into the middle class.
 
In developing its recommendations, the Task Force identified key milestones in the path to adulthood that are especially predictive of later success, and where interventions can have the greatest impact. These recommendations included:
 
·         Getting a health start and entering school ready to learn;
·         Reading at grade level by third grade;
·         Graduating from high school ready for college and career; 
·         Completing post-secondary education or training;
·         Successfully entering the workforce; and
·         Keeping kids on track and giving them second chances.
 
Specific report recommendations also include launching a public-private campaign to recruit mentors for youth and improve the quality of mentoring programs, and to increase awareness about youth summer employment and use of pre-apprenticeships as good entry-level jobs.  

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Discusses Trade Ties with Vietnamese Government Leaders

Secretary Pritzker with members of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council in Vietnam

Yesterday U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker was in Vietnam on the first leg of her Asia commercial diplomacy trip. Along with the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council (USABC) members and a delegation of U.S. CEOs, she is visiting Vietnam, as well as the Philippines and Burma later this week, to strengthen trade and investment and encourage deeper business-to-business ties and demonstrate the Obama administration's ongoing commitment to Asia.  

As part of this trip, Secretary Pritzker met with several government leaders to discuss opportunities for U.S. companies to do more business in Vietnam. This afternoon Secretary Pritzker met first with her counterpart Vu Huy Hoang, the Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade. The Secretary and the Minister discussed of ways to increase economic engagement between the US and Vietnam, specifically speaking about the investment climate for US firms and trade relations relations and the United States’ commitment to concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. Secretary Pritzker and Minister Hoang then met with the USABC CEO delegation and talked about the U.S. private sector’s commitment to Vietnam.

Secretary Pritzker then met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and reaffirmed President Obama’s commitment to opening a new phase of bilateral relations with Vietnam.  After discussing outstanding bilateral economic, trade and investment issues, the leaders were joined by the USABC delegation for a conversation about enhancing commercial ties between the United States and Vietnam and throughout the ASEAN region.