A skilled manufacturing workforce is central to America’s future economic success. In order to best equip workers for 21st century jobs, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has for the first time made skills development a top priority for the Department of Commerce. As part of these efforts, Secretary Pritzker spoke today about the importance of industry-driven skills training at a conference titled “Skills Training for a Modern Manufacturing Workforce: Does the German Model Have Lessons for the United States?” Sponsored by the Aspen Institute, the German Embassy, the Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT), and the German Center for Research and Innovation, the conference highlighted successful U.S. and German approaches to workforce development and how the two countries can collaborate to strengthen the competiveness of both economies.
Skilled workers make businesses more productive, and expanded training opportunities boost workers’ average lifetime earnings. But matching training initiatives to industry needs can be a challenge. Germany’s “dual track” vocational training tradition successfully addresses the needs of both workers and businesses. Pairing classroom instruction with hands-on apprenticeship opportunities, the dual track system gives students the opportunity to gain real-life experience and supplies a pipeline of talent for businesses. In May 2012, the German Embassy launched its “Skills Initiative” to introduce Germany’s dual system of training to U.S. companies. The program brings together German companies with U.S. state and local government officials, education leaders, training providers, and other stakeholders to create workforce development programs best suited to German business needs in the U.S. market.