As two of the newest members of President Obama’s cabinet, we’ve both spent the past few months lending a fresh set of eyes and ears to the opportunities and challenges facing middle-class workers and American businesses. One concern facing both communities that requires our full attention and our joint efforts is making sure that every American has the skills needed to succeed in the workforce.
This week we visited Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) in Maryland, where we were joined by U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer, to hear from local business, education, labor, and government leaders about the importance of skills training as both a workforce development and an economic development imperative.
In 2011 Anne Arundel Community College received a $19.7 million grant from the Labor Department to lead the National STEM Consortium, which is made up of 10 community colleges in nine states. Together, they’re working with employers, labor unions, and industry groups to develop certificate programs designed to train workers for mid-skill technical careers that have a high volume of openings in a particular region. Over the next decade, more than half of the new jobs created will be middle skills jobs meaning they require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree.
For Army veteran and current AACC student Gary Pollard, the National STEM Consortium has meant a second shot at serving his country, this time as a trained cyber security analyst ready to take on one of the 15,000 related job openings in Maryland alone. The National STEM Consortium is just one example of the type of partnership that can be replicated around the country as we work to find ways to ensure American workers have the skills employers are looking for when they want to hire.