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Secretary Pritzker Discusses Fostering a 21st Century Workforce with Walter Isaacson at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival

Today, at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker spoke about the Obama Administration and the Commerce Department’s efforts to strengthen the American workforce and prepare our workforce for 21st century jobs through skills development. She discussed these efforts with Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, during an armchair discussion titled “21st Century Workforce.”

Since taking office a year ago, Secretary Pritzker has spoken to over a thousand business leaders and more than one-third of Fortune 500 CEOs, and one of the top concerns that they have shared is finding the right workers to fill available jobs. To ensure the economy’s long term competitiveness, the United States must maintain a strong workforce with the skills that businesses need. That is why the Department of Commerce is making workforce development a top priority for the first time ever.

In her discussion with Isaacson, Secretary Pritzker talked about some of the initiatives that the Commerce Department is leading to equip the American workforce with skills for jobs in thriving industries. For example, the Department recently launched a membership call for the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), an advisory council that will assists the Department in finding new approaches to industry-led skills training. This spring, Secretary Pritzker also joined President Obama and Vice President Biden to announce a combined $600 million in Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) and apprenticeship grants, which will enable a number of communities to train workers for challenging careers in growing American industries, such as advanced manufacturing, IT, and healthcare.
Workforce development has been a passion for Secretary Pritzker since before she entered government. As an entrepreneur who spent 27 years in the private sector and built five businesses, Secretary Pritzker understands how essential skilled workers are to any successful venture. In fact, she played a key role in launching Skills for America’s Future, an Aspen Institute initiative, which aligns employers with community colleges to ensure that students acquire the skills they need to compete for high wage, high skill jobs. Today, Skills for America’s Future has built a national network of more than 40 employer and 300 community college partners, and the program has become a model for federal programs aimed at facilitating skills development.
Secretary Pritzker also talked to Isaacson about the Administration’s efforts to promote entrepreneurship, another important engine of economic growth and job creation. New and young companies are responsible for virtually all new job growth across the United States. The Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, which Secretary Pritzker chairs, encourages business creation in the U.S. and around the world. Through PAGE, 11 successful American business leaders have partnered with government to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with mentorship and educational opportunities.
Produced in partnership between the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, the Aspen Ideas Festival is a gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to engage in deep and inquisitive discussion of the ideas and issues that shape the modern world. The Department of Commerce is committed to working with leaders across all sectors of the economy to foster a cutting edge, productive, and agile American workforce.

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