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Remarks at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Friday, February 10, 2012

Commerce Secretary John Bryson
Remarks at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Thank you, Congressman Ellison, for those kind words–and thank you Mayor Rybak for having me here in your beautiful city. I know you both are strong believers in creating jobs here in the region and are both advocates for increasing U.S. exports. It’s also great to be here with Chancellor Rosenstone, President Davis and members of the Minneapolis City Council

Two who are not here today are Senators Klobuchar and Franken. Both are big advocates for Minnesotans in Washington. Senator Klobuchar has been a solid champion for exports in her role on the Commerce Committee and we thank her for that.

In fact, we got some good news on exports this morning with a 14.5 percent increase in 2011 to a record $2.1 trillion.

Today has been a great day. First, I met with your District Export Council, which helps the Commerce Department do more to support local exporters.

But then I had the great honor of touring the wide variety of shops you’ve got downstairs. It was wonderful getting a chance to chat with the students in the welding, machine tools and HVAC shops. I can tell they’re going to go far.

The rigorous education and technical training offered here has made a difference in the lives of people throughout this region.

I’m a former CEO and I often get the chance to talk with CEOs and business leaders across the country. Everywhere I go, they tell me that one of their chief concerns is having the highly skilled workers they need to power their companies.

As you heard in the State of the Union address, it’s a concern shared by the president, too. A strong workforce is a critical part of ensuring that our economy is built to last.  

That’s why we are 100 percent focused on jobs.

We just saw some good news on that front.  One week ago, the Administration announced the economy is continuing to show signs of growth.  The unemployment rate fell to 8.3%, the lowest it’s been since President Obama took office.  

Over the past two years, we’ve added over three million new jobs. 350,000 of those jobs were in manufacturing–and 50,000 more manufacturing jobs came just last month.

But there is still work to be done. The president and this administration will not be satisfied until everyone who wants a job, has a job.

That’s why President Obama called for more programs just like the ones offered here. We want to support more colleges that teach people the skills that businesses need. As the president said, we need to “give community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers.”

It’s true.  A globally competitive economy requires a globally competitive workforce–and it starts in places like this.

Here’s the problem. We have a lot of openings right now in science, technology, engineering and math–STEM fields. But we can’t fill them.

Over the last decade, growth in job openings within these fields climbed three times as fast as other jobs. And these jobs are not just open to people with masters in Engineering or Ph.D.s in nanotechnology. We also need workers with science and technology knowledge on the front lines: engineering technicians, computer support specialists, and network system analysts and administrators.

Consider this: In recent years, only about 13 percent of U.S. college graduates got degrees in science, technology, engineering or math. That is much lower than other countries like Korea and Germany at 25 percent.

We can do better. And we must, because a large number of the jobs of tomorrow will require training gained at outstanding colleges like this one.

Of course, how we should go about boosting training programs and skills-based education is a source of much debate in Washington.

On one side, there are people who believe in cutting funding and relying on federal fiscal austerity to shape our economic future.

But any approach where we blindly cut the budget could be harmful to America’s competitiveness in the long term. These approaches ignore the very strategies that helped make America the preeminent economic power of the 20th century.

Instead we need to make smart investments that will pay off.

Already, this administration is investing billions of dollars each year in STEM education. That money supports teachers, internships and workforce training efforts.

At the Department of Commerce, we have a new National Program Office for the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. We are making connections among manufacturers, educators, and workers in order to fill this skills gap.

Many manufacturing jobs are becoming advanced manufacturing jobs. Training is the key to helping American workers meet the demands of our rapidly changing 21st century economy.

Government doesn’t have all the answers. But we do believe that by collaborating with businesses and colleges like this one, we can identify what works, build on that, and spread the best ideas that help businesses grow, innovate, and create jobs.

This is why we must ensure that all Americans receive a quality education. . . and that American businesses have the infrastructure and workforce they need to be competitive.

We are dedicated to helping lay that foundation for growth to ensure that cities like Minneapolis can grow and thrive.

That’s how we will put more people to work.

That’s how we will help businesses grow.

That’s how we ensure that our economy is built to last.

Thank you.