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Blog Category: STEM

SelectUSA Works for Puerto Rico

Alejandro J. García-Padilla, Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Guest blog post by Alejandro J. García-Padilla, Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Almost a year after we announced that Lufthansa Technik would establish an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility in Puerto Rico, we are getting ready to celebrate the 2015 SelectUSA Investment Summit.

With an estimated economic impact of $2.2 billion over a 30-year period, Lufthansa Technik’s decision to establish an MRO site in Puerto Rico is a major strategic advancement for the Commonwealth’s economic development plan. The facility is well under construction and has secured JetBlue and Spirit Airlines as customers. The MRO is expected to begin servicing customers later this year.

Since I took office in January 2013, I have sought to diversify Puerto Rico’s economy by attracting foreign direct investment like Lufthansa Technik, a leading manufacturer and independent provider of technical services for the aviation industry.

And make no mistake, investing in Puerto Rico is investing in the United States. That is why, with the help of the Commerce Department’s Select USA program, we sought out Lufthansa Technik to create jobs that capitalize on the highly skilled workforce that our Island’s university system trains.

The MRO facility is helping to grow Puerto Rico’s aerospace and aviation industry, create high-skilled jobs, and stimulate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. By 2016, up to 400 highly skilled workers will be employed there. Puerto Rico now has the infrastructure to train new aircraft mechanics, with the brand new Aerospace and Aviation Institute of Puerto Rico under development.

This deal was just the beginning of an exciting partnership between Puerto Rico and SelectUSA.  The Lufthansa Technik site is causing a positive ripple effect in the economy, spurring the growth of MRO suppliers.

I also recently announced that business technology consulting firm Infosys BPO will open a new center in Puerto Rico to serve the Island’s growing aviation sector. This investment is another example of foreign direct investment brought on by the ripple effects of the Lufthansa MRO. Infosys will utilize this new center to deliver complex order-to-cash business processes for clients in the aviation industry and create over 200 jobs. The company is looking to further expand its footprint in the region to service clients in the federal government sector and the healthcare industry.

I commend the work of President Obama’s Administration, which was instrumental in bringing Lufthansa Technik to the United States and creating hundreds of well paid jobs in Puerto Rico. I also express my deep gratitude to Vice President Biden, Secretary Pritzker and the SelectUSA Program for making these investments a reality.

The investment from Lufthansa Technik and its impact in the economy are proof that SelectUSA works. We look forward to a long partnership with SelectUSA.  

Northern California MBDA Business Centers Help Minority Entrepreneurs Enter Technology Transfer, Innovation Market

The San Francisco Minority Business Development Center signs partnership agreement with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in August, 2014.

Guest blog post by the San Francisco MBDA Business Center 

Led by National Director Alejandra Castillo, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) has been collaborating with the San Francisco MBDA Business Center (SFMBC), operated by ASIAN, Inc., to advance a groundbreaking technology transfer and innovation agenda.   

The SFMBC, along with its sister San Jose and Fresno MBDA Business Centers, serve the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, which is universally recognized as one of the world’s leading regions for technology innovation and entrepreneurship. Minority business entrepreneurs (MBEs) in this region are not short of innovative ideas and are all too eager to gain access to cutting-edge technologies from national laboratories and universities, especially in life sciences, IT, and clean technology sectors. We’re working diligently to get those MBEs into these emerging markets. 

In September 2014, the SFMBC began piloting MBDA’s strategic Technology Transfer and Innovation Program. Closely working with Director Castillo, we designed our pilot model to engage regional MBEs with technology transfer and innovation concepts in an effort to connect them with U.S. and international investors, including angel investors and venture capital firms, and conventional funding, as well as to assist them with developing strategic commercialization channels. 

To increase awareness among local and regional MBEs and partners we jointly launched the initiative with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)Keiretsu Forum, and other professional service partners in October 2014 at our regional 2014 Minority Enterprise Development Week conference in San Jose. 

At the invitation of Director Castillo, the San Francisco team also brought in its partners and presented the pilot model to national-level MBE audiences at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)’s "Innovations in STEM: National Priorities and NIST" Symposium in November 2014. 

As members of the Keiretsu Forum, the San Francisco and San Jose MBDA Business Center team actively participated in the Forum’s Angel Capital Expo that same month, connecting with regional MBEs and over 500 angel investors worldwide. In January 2015, the team was invited to the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, a gateway to connecting foreign investors with investment opportunities in cutting-edge U.S. technologies in life sciences. 

Commerce’s NIST Announces STEM Education Opportunities for Teachers and Undergraduates

Commerce’s NIST Announces STEM Education Opportunities for Teachers and Undergraduates

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently announced they are accepting applications for two grant programs for middle school science teachers and for its annual NIST Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. These programs underscore the importance of educating both our teachers and students in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). President Obama has set a priority of increasing the number of students and teachers who are proficient in these vital fields. Specifically, he has called on the nation to develop, recruit, and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers over the next ten years. 

The NIST Summer Institute for Middle School Science Teachers program is a two-week workshop at NIST's Gaithersburg, Md., campus, combining lectures, tours and hands-on activities that educators can recreate in their own classrooms. The program aims to increase teachers' understanding of the subjects they teach, provide materials and resources to implement what they have learned at NIST in the classroom, enhance their enthusiasm for science, increase teachers' understanding of how scientific research is carried out, and provide them with the opportunity to develop an ongoing network of scientists and engineers at NIST who will be available for consultation even after the NIST Summer Institute program has ended. 

The program is open to public school districts or accredited private educational institutes in the United States and/or its territories that offer general science classes at grade levels 6-8 are eligible to nominate teachers to participate. In both cases, teachers apply through their schools or school districts rather than individually. Applications must be received by March 13, 2015. Full details of the program, rules and the application process are available at under funding opportunity 2015-NIST-SUMMER-INSTITUTE-01, or visit

For teachers who have completed the Summer Institute Program in a previous year, NIST also is announcing grants in the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Program. The aim is to provide two teachers with an opportunity to further their understanding of how scientific research is performed by participating in research at NIST for six continuous weeks. Selected teachers will work side by side with NIST research scientists and engineers on projects that combine research with direct applications tailored to developing, maintaining, advancing and enabling the measurement system for the nation. The research projects in which the teachers engage will be selected to be highly relevant to the teachers’ interests and the NIST mission. 

Applications for the RET Program must be received by March 18, 2015. Teachers must have completed the NIST Summer Institute program prior to applying to the RET Program. Full details of the program, rules and the application process are available at under funding opportunity 2015-NIST-RET-01, or visit

Calling Kids of All Ages: USPTO Launches Web Page Encouraging Invention and Science and Tech in School

Calling Kids of All Ages:  USPTO Launches Kids Page Encouraging Invention and Science and Tech in School

Did you know that only one U.S. president earned a patent? Do you know which one? Have you ever wondered where the famous expression “The Real McCoy” comes from?

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched a newly redesigned section of its website for kids, but not kids alone! Parents, teachers, and teens will find lots of resources as well as hands-on activities for anyone from preschool to high school. The website encourages students of all ages to engage making, inventing, and discovering the importance of intellectual property. The site also exposes future inventors and entrepreneurs to the inventive thinking process. 

When the children in your life check out the new USPTO KIDS! pages, they’ll discover interesting facts about inventors and learn how they can bring ‘creations of the mind’ to life!  

The website includes games, coloring pages, an audio library of sound marks, videos created by NBC Learn in collaboration with the USPTO and the National Science Foundation (NSF), Girl Scouts’ intellectual property patch activities, lesson plans for teachers, and a list of upcoming events. 

Students can explore collectible cards featuring interesting facts about past and current inventors from diverse walks of life. They’ll also see profiles of inventors their own age, such as Marissa Streng, who while still in elementary school received a utility patent for her dog dryer invention and is the owner of a federally registered trademark. Marissa’s story was featured earlier this year on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Another featured student, Rebecca Hyndman, received a patent for the invention of an under-floor that she designed as an 8th grader. Rebecca was called upon to introduce President Obama at the signing of a historic patent reform bill, the America Invents Act.  

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker Supports IP Protection at Commemoration of 700,000th Design Patent

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and a student at the Langdon Education Campus explore a LeapFrog handheld device, the 700,000th design patent awarded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office

Intellectual property protections are essential to helping unlock American innovation. Patents and trademarks give entrepreneurs the confidence and security they need to invest in new R&D, new businesses, and new employees. That confidence and security translates into $5 trillion of economic output at year -- a 2012 Commerce Department study found that industries that rely most heavily on IP protections support 40 million U.S. jobs and more than one-third of GDP. In order to help create the conditions for economic growth, the Commerce Department is making the country’s IP laws work even better.  

As part of these efforts, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joined USPTO Deputy Director Michelle Lee and Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino today for a ceremony commemorating the 700,000th design patent. The patent was assigned to LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. for the design of “Leapster Explorer,” a hand-held learning and play device for 4-to-9-year-olds, featuring a touch screen and 3D graphics.  At the ceremony, which took place at the Langdon Education Campus in Washington, DC, Secretary Pritzker and Deputy Director Lee presented the patent to Leapfrog Senior Vice President and General Counsel Robert Lattuga. 

Every day, USPTO is awarding more utility and design patents to entrepreneurs and businesses to help them grow, innovate, and compete. Last year alone, USPTO issued 22,000 applications for design patents, an 8 percent increase over the previous year.  A design consists of the visual, ornamental characteristics embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture. Applications in this area cover designs of computer equipment, cell phones and other handheld electronic devices, such as the Leapfrog Design Patent Number 700,000. 

The Obama Administration has been a strong supporter of efforts to make the patent system works more efficiently. President Obama recently announced a number of new executive actions to increase transparency in patent ownership, provide more training to patent examiners, and help inventors and small business owners who unexpectedly find themselves facing patent litigation. 

At today’s ceremony, USPTO also announced a new Intellectual Property patch for Girl Scouts in the National Capital Region (GSCNC). The new patch was developed as a joint project between the GSCNC and the USPTO, in collaboration with the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation (IPO). The patch is designed to support curriculum and activities that increase understanding of IP, especially as it relates to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Secretary Penny Pritzker Returns to Chicago for First Official Visit

Secretary Penny Pritzker Returns to Chicago for First Official Visit

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker returned to Chicago yesterday, making her first visit to her hometown in her official capacity as head of the Department.
Speaking at an event hosted by Google and World Business Chicago, a public-private partnership that seeks to foster private sector growth and jobs through the advancement of a business-friendly environment, Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks and participated in a “fireside chat” with Chicago Tribune reporter Melissa Harris.

She focused on the Obama administration’s efforts to grow the economy and create jobs, as well as some of her top priorities going forward: the need to invest in infrastructure, help workers develop skills for 21st century jobs, reform the immigration system and support R&D and innovation.
As Secretary Pritzker noted, infrastructure is critical to the economy. Unfortunately, the United States has deferred trillions of dollars in infrastructure investment over the years. Under President Obama’s leadership, however, the United States has improved 350,000 miles of roads, 6,000 miles of rail, and 20,000 bridges. The Commerce Department has deployed more than 100,000 miles of broadband since 2009.

Women in Silicon Valley Leading the Way

Deputy Secretary Blank speaks with female leaders at top venture capital firms in Silicon Valley

Guest blog post by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank

Yesterday, I met with women who are fostering entrepreneurship and innovation in our economy through their leadership at top venture capital firms in Silicon Valley.

We discussed the need for more girls and women to be able to find opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, where women comprise less than one-fourth of the workforce. We also discussed how women are investing in and leading startups and businesses in key areas that support U.S. competitiveness, such as clean energy, healthcare, telecommunications, bioscience, and other fast-growing fields.

It's clear that women investors play a crucial role in helping ensure that the best private-sector ideas - including those coming from women entrepreneurs - get the resources they need to help build companies and create jobs.

Strengthening the role of women in business and technology is an important goal of the Obama Administration, supported by the White House Council on Women and Girls. The Commerce Department, for its part, offers post-doctoral research opportunities, scholarships, and unique experiences aimed at encouraging girls to consider fulfilling and rewarding careers in STEM fields. 

Businesses Need Common Sense Immigration Reform to Keep Growing, Creating American Jobs

Dr. Blank and members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (photo: Colin Buckner, Silicon Valley Leadership Group)

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Deputy Secretary of Commerce

Yesterday, I was in California to talk with business executives who are part of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. We discussed key issues facing them as they continue to grow, create jobs, and drive both innovation and competitiveness here in the U.S.

They just completed an annual survey of their own membership. The biggest business challenge that they identified was their ability to attract and retain a skilled workforce.

I let them know that President Obama understands that we are in a global competition for talent and we want the best people right here in the U.S.

Commerce’s USPTO Joins NSF and NBC Network in Launching Educational Series on Innovation

Science of Innovation banner

The U.S. Commerce Department’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) joined the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NBC Learn today in launching an 11-part “Science of Innovation” series to coincide with the 165th birthday of American inventor Thomas Edison. The program represents the latest intellectual property (IP) education efforts by the USPTO and serves as a public-private partnership leveraging the best strengths of federal agencies, industry, and educators to demonstrate the connection between IP and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Narrated by NBC News’ Ann Curry, the series features innovators from across the country, including scientists and engineers working on projects in industries as diverse as healthcare, energy, transportation, agriculture, and more. “Science of Innovation” looks beyond the popular concept of innovation as the result of a single event or brilliant idea. Instead, it examines the processes and steps that anyone from a garage tinkerer to a federally-funded scientist can take to discover new solutions to pressing problems or to add value in new ways to existing products, services or technologies.

“The USPTO has promoted the progress of science and invention since 1790,” said Teresa Stanek Rea, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “Education is the key to encouraging today’s children to become tomorrow’s innovators. These videos and lesson plans are great tools for teachers everywhere to help students learn about intellectual property, while inspiring them to connect the process of innovation with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.”

Segments feature innovators working on cutting-edge innovations, including bionic limbs, biofuels, anti-counterfeiting devices, and 3-D printing. A full list of videos can be found online at

NOAA Announces $4.5 Million in Environmental Literacy Grants to Support K-12 Science Education and Stewardship Projects

Students and teachers explore global data visualizations with NOAA’s Science On a Sphere at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (MSI).  The sphere will serve as a focal point for K-12 teacher professional development programs at MSI, which is one of eight new recipients of NOAA Environmental Literacy Grants.  (Photo credit:  MSI)

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Wednesday that it is awarding eight new education grants to enhance science education activities in classrooms, aquariums, museums and other institutions across America. These awards support six unique, multi-year projects and will share $4.5 million in grants from the NOAA Office of Education’s Environmental Literacy Grants Program. Projects are designed to increase stewardship and informed decision-making within a diverse pool of educators, students and the public to help promote environmental literacy.

“NOAA’s Office of Education is proud to partner with such an impressive group of organizations,” said Louisa Koch, director of education at NOAA. “It is only with the help of institutions such as these that we can successfully engage the public in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics while supporting NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship."

The projects receiving grant funding focus on engaging formal and informal educators along with K-12 students. Project activities include formal K-12 educator training programs to help teachers incorporate NOAA data and other resources into experiential learning activities; service learning programs for K-12 students that combine standards-based learning with stewardship activities in students’ local communities; and professional development to enhance informal science educators’ effectiveness in increasing public understanding of complex ocean topics. The selected projects will partner with NOAA’s research laboratories, national marine sanctuaries, Climate Program Office, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Weather Service, Pacific Services Center, Coral Reef Conservation Program and Sea Grant.  NOAA release

Director Kappos Promotes Innovation in Southern California

Director Kappos, seated, being interviewed

Under Secretary and United States Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos briefed southern California innovators on the many ways the Obama administration is advancing U.S. innovation. He met with technology entrepreneurs at Powerwave Technologies in Santa Ana, California, hosted by Southern California’s TechVoice chapter in conjunction with CompTIA and locally-based Technology Leadership Political Action Committee (TLPAC). The USPTO is on the eve of publishing a series of new rules implementing the America Invents Act, signed last September by President Obama, which will improve patent quality and make it easier for U.S. innovators to protect their intellectual property (IP) abroad. Attendees were briefed on AIA implementation as well as the USPTO’s plans to open four new satellite offices, including one in the Silicon Valley region of California. “By building partnerships and collaborating with the Orange County Bar and broader community,” Director Kappos said, "the USPTO will better engage its Silicon Valley office with the Southern California IP community.”

Government Coming to Entrepreneurs

Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK

Guest blog post by Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK.

Ed. Note: SeventyK’s mission is to change cancer care by educating patients, families, and their healthcare providers through innovative ways about age-appropriate treatment and the unique needs of the adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patient. Unlike pediatric and older adult cancer patients, for over two decades the rate of survival for AYA cancer patients has not improved.

Last Thursday I was honored to be part of a panel at the Colorado University Denver Anschutz Medical Campus where Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank discussed the importance of opening four new USPTO offices, including one in Denver.

As Acting Secretary Blank spoke to the new opportunities and growth that will spur from opening new USPTO offices, two quotes came to mind:

#1: "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it" (Albert Einstein). 

For the first time, new offices outside of Washington, D.C. will be part of the solution to accelerate innovation in this country—an important recognition that innovation doesn’t happen in one place—it happens across the country. Now entrepreneurs who need to protect their innovation have a direct line to the government locally. A strong move when seeing that IP-intensive industries account for nearly 35 percent of the FY2010 U.S. GDP.

Acting Secretary Blank Speaks About Innovation Imperative at GlobalWIN’s Luncheon

Acting Secretary Blank Enjoys a Laugh With Members of the Global Women’s Innovation Network (Photo by Ben Droz -

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered remarks at the Global Women’s Innovation Network (GlobalWIN)’s third annual Innovation Luncheon at the Library of Congress today. GlobalWIN provides a forum for women executives and women working in academia, government and business in innovation-related fields. In her remarks, Dr. Blank highlighted the importance of women’s leadership in advancing America’s innovation agenda to compete and create jobs.

Blank emphasized that to be competitive in the 21st century, America needs to encourage students to enter science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. These fields produce many of the inventors and leaders who bring new ideas from the lab to the marketplace. Even though STEM jobs pay about 25 percent more than others, only about 13 percent of U.S. college graduates got degrees in the STEM fields. Blank affirmed that one reason America has so few STEM workers is because women are seriously underrepresented in these fields. Women make up nearly half of America’s labor force—but less than one-fourth of our STEM workforce. Some women lack information, others lack role models or mentors, while others may lack opportunity.

To provide opportunities, the Obama administration launched Educate to Innovate in 2009. This campaign brings together the federal government with private-sector partners with a particular focus on inspiring more girls, women and minorities to explore science and technology. Another example is Race to the Top, made possible by the Recovery Act. With about $4 billion in funding, Race to the Top provides competitive grants that support and reward states with high K-through-12 achievement with the only extra preference allowed in this competition is for states that focus on STEM. A third example of the president’s commitment came this week when he dedicated $100 million for a new corps of high-quality STEM teachers at 50 sites around the U.S. These teachers will get up to $20,000 on top of their base salary in exchange for making a multi-year commitment.

Blank reminded the audience that in the long run, America’s ability to innovate and compete as a nation will determine what kind of economy—and what kind of country—we pass along to the next generation.

Deputy Secretary Blank Advocates Public Service in Commencement Speech

Guest blog post by Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca M. Blank

This morning, I had the privilege of delivering the commencement address to graduate students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) commencement ceremony.

I was also deeply honored to receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree during the ceremony for my work as a public servant, including the leadership I provided in my previous job at Commerce, overseeing the nation’s premier statistical agencies, the Census Bureau (during the 2010 Census) and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The commencement speech provided an opportunity to give advice to the graduate students and to encourage them to use their expertise and experience to find solutions to the pressing problems facing our world. UMBC is particularly well-known for its scientific training. Science, technology, engineering and math–STEM fields–are particularly important, and it is STEM-related research that will drive innovation in the years ahead. In fact, STEM jobs have grown three times faster than other jobs, indicating the need for more workers with these skills.

Deputy Secretary Blank Delivers Remarks on Manufacturing at the Aspen Institute

Deputy Secretary Blank delivers remarks at the Aspen Institute (Photo: Steve Johnson, Aspen Institute)

This morning, Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered the keynote address at “Manufacturing, Innovation, and Workforce Training: What Works In Germany and The United States For Jobs and Growth,” a conference co-sponsored by the Aspen Institute, the German Center for Research and Innovation, the German Embassy, and the Representative of German Industry and Trade. Her remarks come the week before Commerce Secretary John Bryson travels to Dusseldorf and Berlin to meet with government and business leaders.

Deputy Secretary Blank noted how both America and Germany have shown strength in areas such as manufacturing and exporting. She emphasized the importance of maintaining economic growth by strengthening the U.S.-German economic relationship.

Summary of Twitter #MFGChat on ESA's Manufacturing Jobs report

Today @CommerceGov, @EconChiefGov, and @TheMFGInstitute joined the manufacturing community on Twitter to discuss the Economic and Statistics Administration’s “The Benefits of Manufacturing Jobs” report. #MFGChat is held monthly. Below is a selected transcript of the conversation.

Secretary Bryson Discusses the Future of U.S. Manufacturing at MIT

Secretary Bryson Discusses the Future of U.S. Manufacturing at MIT

There is a powerful link between America’s ability to make things and America’s ability to innovate, compete, and create good jobs, as Secretary John Bryson said today when he spoke to CEOs, students and faculty at “The Future of Manufacturing in the U.S.” conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Secretary took the opportunity to discuss the importance of manufacturing in boosting U.S. economic growth, job creation and exports, as part of the administration's ongoing efforts to encourage companies to build things in America and sell everywhere around the globe.

Bryson also released a new U.S. Commerce Department Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) report titled “The Benefits of Manufacturing Jobs,” an analysis of wages and benefits of manufacturing workers, which provides fresh evidence that manufacturing jobs encourage innovation and support economic security for America’s middle class. The report finds that total hourly compensation for manufacturing workers is 17 percent higher than for non-manufacturing workers. It also shows that manufacturing jobs are becoming more skilled and heavily reliant on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, and that manufacturing is responsible for 70 percent of our private sector R&D, 90 percent of our patents, and 60 percent of our exports.

After a decade in which the United States lost many manufacturing jobs, American manufacturers have added back 489,000 jobs since January 2010—the best streak since 1995. In the first four months of 2012 alone, the U.S. manufacturing sector added 139,000 jobs. At the same time, the number of job openings in manufacturing has more than doubled.

Secretary Bryson Tours and Joins a Discussion with Business Leaders, Educators at Minneapolis Community and Technical College

Secretary Bryson Enjoys Mayor Rybak's Attempts at Welding

Today, Secretary John Bryson traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to tour facilities at Minneapolis Community Technical College (MCTC), along with Mayor R.T. Rybak and U.S. Representative Keith Ellison. After the tour, Bryson held a discussion with business leaders, students and educators—including Steven Rosenstone, Chancellor of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, MCTC Graduate Mike Palm and Kimberly Arrigoni, President-Elect of Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association—on how the Obama Administration can continue to support successful partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train and place skilled workers. 

The rigorous education and hands on technical training offered at MCTC and other workforce training campuses has made a difference in the lives of people across the country. As President Obama said during his State of the Union Address a few weeks ago, having a strong workforce is a critical part of ensuring that our economy is built to last. 

Bryson noted that over the past two years, we’ve added over 3.7 million new jobs, including 404,000 manufacturing jobs. But there is still work to be done. That’s why the President has called for more programs and partnerships like the ones at MCTC. We need to support more colleges that teach people the skills that businesses need, and investing in the next generation of skilled workers is a smart investment that will pay off.

Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Highlights Skills Initiatives in Madison, Wisconsin

Image of a "truck classrom": Bringing the Classroom to the Community

President Obama recently laid out plans in his State of the Union address to foster an economy that’s built to last by ensuring that America has the highly skilled workers necessary for 21st century jobs. Yesterday, Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, where she visited the Madison Area Technical College, a training ground for students that leads directly to skilled manufacturing jobs nationwide. Blank met with students and sat in on a training class focused on hybrid vehicle technology. Blank also delivered remarks on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce training and met with business and university leaders. Commerce’s Economic Development Administration recently teamed up with Madison College to provide mobile technical training opportunities both on-campus and throughout the region. The training focused on advanced manufacturing and automotive technology.

Blank also visited with several business and academic leaders, who are vital partners in the area of technical training at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

Science at Sea: Teaching Our Youth About the Jobs that Make it Happen

"If I Worked on a NOAA ship" book cover

As NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program (TAS) prepares for its 2012 season, the lessons and materials created by its participants from the 2011 season are making it into the hands of their eager students around the U.S. In 2011, 34 teachers representing 21 states, participated in NOAA research cruises, involving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts that can be integrated into their daily lessons. One of the goals of the TAS program is that teachers understand and use NOAA data in their classrooms. Teachers also obtain and translate this STEM knowledge for their students and the public in their blogs.

Another goal of the TAS program is for teachers to learn how different STEM occupations support NOAA’s mission and to then convey this information to their students. Each teacher is required to meet with, and sometimes interview, multiple crewmembers during the research cruise.  Often times, these interviews are featured in their blogs, but sometimes, teachers have the students create a product that explains the different jobs.

The State of our Union’s 21st Century Workforce

Recent and Projected Growth in STEM and Non-STEM Employment

In his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out an ambitious goal to train 2 million workers with the necessary skills to land a job.  What are those skills in a 21st century economy?  As we have written previously in this blog, the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) play a critical role in America’s global economic leadership and are vital to securing the highest quality jobs of the future, to decreasing the gender wage gap, and to ensuring America retains global economic leadership through innovation and technology. 

STEM & Employment

In 2010, 7.6 million people or 1 in 18 workers held STEM jobs.  (Watch this space for an update as 2011 data become available.)  Although STEM employment makes up a small fraction of total employment, STEM employment grew rapidly from 2000 to 2010, increasing 7.9 percent while employment in non-STEM jobs grew just 2.6 percent over this period.  (See Figure 1.) The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that STEM jobs will continue growing at a fast clip relative to other occupations: 17.0 percent between 2008-2018 (BLS’ most recent projection), compared to just 9.8 percent for non-STEM jobs.

STEM & Education

One of the more striking characteristics of STEM workers is their educational attainment.  More than two-thirds (68 percent) have a college degree or more, compared to just under one-third (31 percent) of other workers age 16 and over.  Nearly one quarter (23 percent) have completed an associate’s degree or at least some college.  Just 9 percent have a high school diploma or less.  Thus the majority of STEM workers tend to be college educated, but opportunities also exist for STEM workers with fewer years of study.

Maryland Governor O'Malley Urges Investment in Cybersecurity Education

Gov. Martin O'Malley on podium

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley addressed several hundred educators,  IT experts, and others at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) yesterday as part of a workshop hosted by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), a national campaign coordinated by NIST.

Calling cybersecurity an "urgent priority," O'Malley emphasized the need for government and the private sector to work together to "invest in the skills of our people" and create new jobs in the cyber field. In part, he said job creation will depend on “how quickly we move good ideas from labs to the commercial sector.”

O’Malley described a state-wide cybersecurity initiative begun three years ago that includes partnerships with Maryland-based federal labs such as NIST and the National Security Agency, enhanced technology transfer efforts, and expansion of the cybersecurity career pipeline. He also discussed several programs that the state of Maryland has implemented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), education at the college level and in career and technical education at the high school level to improve education in cybersecurity.

He noted that "a modern economy requires modern investment," and "the single most important investment is the investment in public education."

ESA: Education Supports Racial and Ethnic Equality in STEM

Blank announces STEM Report: Education Supports Racial and Ethnic Equality

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank unveiled findings from the Economics and Statistics Administration’s (ESA) third and final report on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs and education today at a Brookings Institution forum on advancing STEM education in the United States.

STEM workers are essential to American innovation  and competitiveness in an increasingly dynamic and global marketplace. In this third report, we examine demographic disparities in STEM education and find that educational attainment may affect equality of opportunity in these critical, high‐quality jobs of the future.

This report follows an analysis of labor market outcomes and gender disparities among STEM workers. We find that regardless of race and Hispanic origin, higher college graduation rates are associated with higher shares of workers with STEM jobs. But non‐Hispanic Whites and Asians are much more likely than other minority groups to have a bachelor’s degree. By increasing the numbers of STEM workers among currently underrepresented groups through education we can help ensure America’s future as a global leader in technology and innovation.  Press release  |  Third STEM report

Listening to Local Businesses in South Carolina

Under Secretary Nancy Potok tours South Carolina MTU, a German-owned diesel engine company with plant manager Jeorge Klisch.

Guest blog post by Nancy Potok, Commerce Deputy Under Secretary, Economics and Statistics Administration

In the heart of South Carolina’s picturesque horse community, I sat down at the Aiken County Chamber of Commerce to begin the first of two White House Business Council roundtable discussions with local business owners in Aiken and Columbia, S.C.  These discussions, focused on rural communities during the month of August, are designed to provide an intimate forum for local businesses to discuss the obstacles they face in creating jobs and growing their businesses. 

Attending that discussion, along with about 20 others was Jeorge Klisch, the plant manager of MTU, a German-owned diesel engine company formerly known as “Detroit Diesel” that has been located in Aiken about a year.  Earlier that morning I took a tour of MTU’s state of the art facility located about twelve miles outside Aiken in the once thriving manufacturing community of Graniteville, S.C.. Having grown up in Detroit with the required elementary school field trip to an automotive plant, I was expecting a hot, loud and oil covered environment.  In contrast, MTU was temperature controlled, clean and high tech.  During the tour, Klitsch shared with me their plans to  bring another 200 jobs to the Aiken area, the need for a skilled workforce, and his efforts to collaborate with surrounding area high schools and technical colleges to adjust their curriculum and support his “ work and learn” initiative that will help fill MTU’s future  need for engineers and technicians.  I noticed an absence of women in the workplace, but before I asked about it, Klisch said he want to dispel myths held by women about manufacturing jobs and plans to focus on introducing young women and girls to manufacturing, where they are significantly underrepresented at MTU.  MTU exports about 50 percent of its products and has invested more than $77 million in this new site with plans for expansion and increased production.  Very impressive and a great indication of the growth potential in the Aiken area.

Women and STEM: My Perspective, and My Story

Image of female scientists

Guest blog post by Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator

Last week, as the administration and Congress agreed on a debt ceiling deal, those of us in the science world were reminded of another looming deficit: the lack of women with jobs – and education – in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM).

According to the “Women in STEM” report issued by Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA), nearly half of U.S. jobs are filled by women, yet they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. This is despite the fact that women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than women in other fields.

A country, especially one in the throes of tough economic times, needs all of the skilled brainpower it has to “win the future.”  Science and technological innovation have a key role to play in creating jobs, stimulating a robust economy and creating durable solutions to tough problems.  Women and people of color have more to offer than is currently being tapped.  Since the ESA report focuses on women, I’ll do the same here.

We at NOAA are doing our best to identify, hire, promote and engage talented people. I am surrounded by women in all stages of their careers who are pursuing their passions for science and science policy.

We have a history of distinguished women scientists working at NOAA and continue to actively seek new talent. In addition, women of distinction also fill the uppermost ranks of the NOAA leadership team.

What differentiates NOAA from other science-based institutions, and what attracts budding scientists and students to NOAA? One obvious answer is our mission to create and use cutting-edge science to provide services and stewardship—our weather, climate and ocean science enterprises.

Kids are especially intrigued and excited by weather and climate as “see and feel” phenomena that touch them daily. The same can be said for the ocean, which like space, is a largely unexplored frontier that offers the promise of adventure and discovery.

This is, in fact, what hooked me.

Women in STEM: An Opportunity and An Imperative

Gender Shares of Total and STEM Jobs, 2009

Today Commerce's Economic and Statistics Administration released the second in a series of reports on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This report, entitled Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation (PDF), looked at women and STEM. The results offer an opportunity and an imperative for women and America. The results showed that women are vastly underrepresented in STEM jobs and among STEM degree holders despite making up nearly half of the U.S. workforce and half of the college-educated workforce. That leaves an untapped opportunity to expand STEM employment in the United States, even as there is wide agreement that the nation must do more to improve its competitiveness.

Other key findings are:

  • Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. This has been the case throughout the past decade, even as college-educated women have increased their share of the overall workforce.
  • Women with STEM jobs earned 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs–considerably higher than the STEM premium for men. As a result, the gender wage gap is smaller in STEM jobs than in non-STEM jobs.
  • Women hold a disproportionately low share of STEM undergraduate degrees, particularly in engineering.
  • Women with a STEM degree are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation; they are more likely to work in education or healthcare

For more information on this topic, read Chief Economist Mark Doms's blog post about the report and ESA's first report on STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future.

NOAA: Cultivating the Next Generation of STEM Workers, One Student at a Time

NOAA’s Ernest F. Hollings scholarship program students on Chesapeake Bay field study  (NOAA photo)

You’ve probably heard the term in the news of late. “STEM jobs” in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, are the new “It” jobs.

A report from Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration discussed recently in this blog had good news for present and future STEM workers. Among its key findings, the report notes that in the past 10 years:

  • Growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs;
  • STEM workers earn 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts; and
  • Job growth in these fields will continue to grow at a faster rate than other jobs. 

As the report confirms, STEM workers are driving our nation’s innovation and competitiveness and helping America “win the future” with new ideas, new businesses and new industries.

Enter Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA’s mission—to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to share that knowledge and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources—is central to many of today’s greatest challenges.  

Why? Climate change, extreme weather, declining biodiversity, and threatened natural resources all convey a common message: Now, more than ever, human health, prosperity and well-being depend upon the health and resilience of both natural and social ecosystems and resources.

That means we need skilled hands and inspired minds to help society prepare for and respond to weather-related events, to sustain healthy and productive ecosystems and to ensure resilient coastal communities and economies.

Economics and Statistics Administration Releases New Report on STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future

Recent and Projected Growth in STEM and Non-STEM Employment

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) today released a new report that profiles U.S. employment in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future offers an inside look at workers who are driving our nation’s innovation and competitiveness and helping America win the future with new ideas, new companies and new industries.

In 2010, 7.6 million people or 5.5 percent of the labor force worked in STEM occupations. Key findings from the new report show that over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs, and STEM jobs are expected to continue to grow at a faster rate than other jobs in the coming decade. Meanwhile, STEM workers are also less likely to experience joblessness.

Further findings show STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts. STEM degree holders also enjoy higher earnings, regardless of whether they work in STEM or non-STEM occupations. Likewise, college graduates – no matter what their major – enjoy an earnings premium for having a STEM job.

ESA wrote up their findings on their blog and have released the complete report: STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future.

NIST Working to Develop Adaptable Robots That Can Assist—and Even Empower—Human Production Workers

NIST’s new Autonomous Assembly Testbed includes an automated guided vehicle (left), conveyers, mannequins and an underslung robot arm (right).

Guest blog by Albert J. Wavering, the Chief of the Intelligent Systems Division of the Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Robots have explored Mars, descended into volcanoes, and roamed the ocean depths.  Today, they also perform humdrum chores, such as vacuuming and waxing floors.  And in between the ordinary and the extraordinary, robots are carrying out a growing array of tasks, from painting and spot-welding in factories to delivering food trays in hospitals.

But, when it comes to these automated machines, you haven’t seen anything yet, especially in the manufacturing world, where robots were first put to use 50 years ago in a General Motors factory.  In fact, the first factory robot became something of celebrity, earning an appearance, along with one of its inventors, on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Even today, however, manufacturing robots are akin to electromechanical hulks that blindly perform relatively simple, repetitive jobs and—Tonight Show demo notwithstanding—must be safely separated from human workers by fences and gates.

In laboratories around the world, the race is on to build a new generation of robots that are smarter, more flexible, and far more versatile than the current one.  A successful leap to more adept and adaptable robots could set the stage for a revolution in U.S. manufacturing that reaches from the largest factories to the smallest job shops.

Automation technology has found a place performing repetitive and, often, dirty and dangerous factory tasks. It also has helped U.S. manufacturers to achieve productivity increases that are the envy of the world.

But the best could be yet to come.  The next wave of robots could be the springboard to new U.S. companies and new domestic manufacturing jobs.

Secretary Gary Locke visited NOAA's Science Center to Highlight Education as a Key Pillar for Enhancing American Competitiveness

Secretary Locke Talks with a Student at NOAA's Science Center in Silver Spring, MD about His Research

Secretary Gary Locke visited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Science Center in Silver Spring, MD today, to highlight the importance of education in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields in enhancing the United States’ global competitiveness.  He emphasized President Obama’s strategy of results-driven education investments, which will allow the U.S. to out-educate, out-innovate and out-build the rest of the world. 

Locke participated in the NOAA Education Partnership Program’s Annual Cooperative Science Center Directors meeting, where he heard a presentations by NOAA-sponsored undergraduate, Master’s and Ph.D. STEM students about their latest research and findings.  He also held a roundtable discussion with the NOAA Science Center Directors and some of the NOAA Cooperative Institute Directors to exchange ideas about how to bolster STEM education programs for undergraduate and graduate students across the country.  Graduates of these programs are the workforce of the future and will contribute to the recovery and growth of America’s economy. 

The NOAA Education Partnership Program supports five Cooperative Science Centers, housed in Minority Serving Institutions in Washington D.C., Maryland, New York, Florida, and North Carolina.  These Cooperative Science Centers have awarded over 800 Bachelors, Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in the STEM fields in the last 10 years; over 600 of these graduates are from under-represented minorities.