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Remarks from Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on Training America's Workforce at Montgomery College

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez visited Montgomery College in Germantown, MD, the recipient of a $15 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant to lead a consortium of 14 Maryland community colleges, in partnership with 37 employers, to build career pathways for cybersecurity and information technology jobs. Cybersecurity is a threat not just to our national security, but to our businesses and our economy at–large, and there are currently approximately 210,000 open and unfilled cybersecurity jobs across the country. 

Skills development is an important issue for our workforce and our businesses, and Secretary Pritzker has made job-driven training a top priority for the Department of Commerce for the very first time. In critical areas of our economy, ranging from manufacturing to cybersecurity, jobs are going unfilled because employers cannot find workers with the skills they are seeking. To ensure we are aligning federal training programs with employer needs, the Obama Administration is focused on bringing all stakeholders together – businesses, community colleges, labor, government, and other institutions – to work together on the training programs and partnerships of the future. 

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery: 

Thank you, Dr. Pollard, for the tour of the cyber laboratory and for welcoming us to Montgomery College’s Germantown campus today. 

I also want to recognize all of the Maryland community college presidents, private sector, and local and state government leaders with us today. 

It is great to be here with Secretary Perez – who has kept the Department of Labor laser-focused on the interests of America’s working families every day. He has been an outstanding partner in making job-driven training a core component of this Administration’s economic agenda. 

For the first time in history, the Department of Commerce has made skills and workforce development a top priority. The reason is simple: for our economy to grow and our families to thrive, we need to ensure that more workers are better prepared and better equipped to meet the demands of business in the 21st century. Meeting that task is a responsibility for all of us – and requires close cooperation between government, the private sector, and institutions of higher education. 

That is what TAACCCT is all about: building a partnership between community colleges and local employers to train students to fill the jobs of today and prepare for the opportunities of tomorrow. That is what Montgomery College and its partners are doing through Cyber-Technology Pathways Across Maryland – earning a $15 million TAACCCT grant to align your educational ecosystem with the needs of a vital sector in our economy: cybersecurity. As you all know, cybersecurity is a threat not just to our national security, but to our businesses and our economy at-large. Addressing this challenge is a key priority for the entire Obama Administration. 

The Department of Commerce is taking the lead on this front through our National Institute of Standards and Technology – or NIST – which is located nearby in Gaithersburg. NIST is a national treasure. This agency advances cutting-edge technology and industry standards at our national laboratories – which have counted 6 Nobel Prize winners among their ranks. And NIST has conducted cybersecurity research for as long as there has been cyberspace to secure. Among its efforts, NIST has worked with the State of Maryland and Montgomery County on projects designed to:

  • Secure electronic health information;
  • Protect assets in the financial services sector; and
  • Defend our energy infrastructure.

More relevant to today’s roundtable, NIST has partnered with other federal agencies on NICE – the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education. NICE is focused on a specific gap in our economy: there are an estimated 210,000 open and unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the United States today. For the sake of our economic and national security, that must change. To close this gap, NICE is taking action. For example:

  • The NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework provides the standard lexicon for community colleges and industry partners on the vocabulary of the cybersecurity field, the curriculum for cybersecurity courses, and descriptions of positions in this sector.
  • NICE is partnering with the private sector to develop an interactive U.S. map that shows where cybersecurity job openings exist, identifies the skills required to fill them, and shows training programs available to job-seekers.
  • In addition, NICE is building a catalogue of high-quality cyber training programs.

Our businesses need a trained workforce that can implement NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework for Critical Infrastructure – which provides standards, guidelines, and practices to help businesses manage cyber risks in a cost-effective way. There is far more to do. At NIST, we are laying the foundation. But to truly bring our cybersecurity defenses to an optimal level, we must work with trainers, educators, industry leaders, security firms, and businesses to meet this challenge in a comprehensive and effective manner.

On another note, I want to take a moment to note that we meet today at a moment of opportunity for our country. Last month, our economy added 321,000 jobs, marking 57 straight months of job growth. And 2014 is on track to be the best year for our labor market since the late 1990s. To build on this momentum, the Department of Commerce, in partnership with the Department of Labor, is focused on making sure workers are trained for good-paying jobs in every sector. To support that effort, for the first time, the Commerce Department is seeking a national partner to help us develop a skills-focused learning exchange to identify and scale industry-led workforce partnerships.

This Federal Funding Opportunity is just one way the Department of Commerce and the Obama Administration is acting to improve how our country trains, educates, and prepares our workforce. But to be an effective interlocutor, it is imperative that we at the Department of Commerce hear about the concerns and insights faced by all of you at the ground level. I am very interested in hearing your ideas on how we can more closely align the immediate workforce needs of business with the educational and training resources in our communities.

I want to learn from you about how we can make local, regional, and national workforce development efforts more job-driven. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and to working together to keep our economy growing and our country open for business.