U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews Delivers Keynote Remarks on Tech Workforce Development at Urban Alliance Event


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Today, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews delivered keynote remarks at an event hosted by the Urban Alliance on “Young People, Tech and the Future of Work.” The event brought together leaders in government, business, and academia to collaborate on creating opportunities for young people and the business community to train, prepare, and leverage the skills of the next-generation of workers and innovators.
During his remarks, Deputy Secretary Andrews highlighted the Department of Commerce’s partnerships with industry to help close the nation’s talent gap through the Skills for Business agenda. The Commerce Department and the Obama Administration are working closely with private sector partners to increase the capacity of our workforce to innovate and compete globally through the creation of talent pipelines in fields like IT and cybersecurity, which are critical to the future of our digital economy. As an example of this collaborative model, President Obama launched TechHire in March 2015, a public-private program to fill more than 600,000 open technology jobs. In closing, the Deputy Secretary underscored the critical importance of preparing the nation’s young people to succeed in the high-tech jobs of the 21st century.

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good morning, and thank you for that warm introduction, Sarah. I am delighted to be here today. Let me start by thanking Airbnb and the Urban Alliance for teaming up to host this event. Today’s conversation couldn’t be more important to our country’s future.

It’s a conversation about how digital technology is transforming the way we live, learn, work, and do business. About our nation’s future in a global economy that is increasingly interconnected. And it’s about harnessing the potential of America’s most precious resource: the talent of our people, and especially our young people.           

From the invention of the lightbulb to the deployment of lightning-fast broadband, innovation has always fueled our economy. The entrepreneurial spirit and industriousness of our people helped build the most prosperous and innovative economy ever known. Yet we cannot take our success for granted. Not in the 21st century.

Consider that just two decades ago, fewer than 500 million people worldwide had access to the Internet. Today, over 3.2 billion people are connected, and we’re on track to reach five billion by 2020. As more people access the Internet’s vast storehouse of knowledge, anyone with a network connection can be an entrepreneur. And game-changing innovations can come from any corner of our country and the world.

Today, a technology startup in Austin may hire programmers in Singapore to support a manufacturing client in Germany using cloud servers in North Carolina.

In today’s global economy, the competition has never been steeper. The pace of innovation has never been faster. And preparing Americans for the jobs of the future is more important than ever. We all know how far we’ve come since 2009, when President Obama took office and we were losing more than 700,000 jobs a month.

Since 2010, the private sector has added 15.6 million new jobs and the unemployment rate has dropped to 4.6 percent. That’s the lowest we’ve seen since August 2007.  Our steady economic recovery has created jobs for millions of people. But we have also seen anxiety over the changing nature of work become a major issue of debate in our society. This anxiety stems from a simple fact: while our economy continues to grow, many Americans have yet to feel the gains. And forces like digitization, automation, and globalization are transforming our world in profound ways.

Many jobs being created in 2016 are different from those we lost in 2008. Companies are increasingly looking to hire data scientists, web developers, engineers, cybersecurity analysts, and other highly-skilled workers. As the private sector drives astounding innovations in new areas like autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and advanced manufacturing, we must ensure that more Americans share in our economic gains.  That starts with equipping the workers of today and of tomorrow with the skills needed for the jobs of the future.

As Deputy Secretary of Commerce, I have met with countless business leaders concerned about our nation’s shortage of highly-skilled workers. For the United States to remain the global leader in innovation and to continue out-competing the rest of the world, we must build a workforce prepared to succeed in the 21st century. 

To address this challenge, Secretary Pritzker and I have made workforce development a top priority for the first time in the Department of Commerce’s history. Our “Skills for Business” initiative focuses on equipping workers with the skills needed by today’s employers. We have formed a partnership between the Departments of Commerce and Labor to ensure our workforce policies are truly jobs-driven. We have invested in regional pipelines of talent in fields like cybersecurity and IT. And we are working with local governments, economic development organizations, colleges and companies to ensure community workforce development programs reflect the needs of the region’s employers.

Take for example the Department of Commerce’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, or NICE. Led by our National Institute for Standards and Technology, NICE is engaging academic experts and private sector leaders to develop best practices for cybersecurity education. This fall, we issued the first-ever federal grant funding for community-based cybersecurity training. For example, Cin-Day Cyber is a local partnership between universities in the Cincinatti-Dayton region, where the Department of Defense’s cyber operations have spurred a growing cybersecurity industry. But with an estimated 300,000 cybersecurity-related job openings nationwide, we must rapidly recruit more Americans into these positions.

The success of our digital economy depends on strong cybersecurity, and strong cybersecurity depends on the capacity of our workforce to defend our country against today’s ever-evolving threats. Last week, the report delivered to President Obama by the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity recommended we launch a national talent surge to dramatically improve workforce preparedness. And we expect our Digital Economy Board of Advisors, which will issue recommendations next week on broader issues of importance to our digital economy, to include skills and education as a priority as well.

Such efforts complement President Obama’s TechHire initiative - one of our Administration’s most successful public-private sector partnerships to date. Through industry-led boot camps and accelerated training, TechHire aims to prepare Americans for the more than 500,000 jobs available in IT nationwide. The President’s initiative has invested $150 million in federal grants in public-private partnerships – with a special focus on preparing disadvantaged communities for jobs in the IT field – from veterans to people with disabilities to immigrants to people with criminal records.

Consider the story of Chelsea Okey, a U.S. Army veteran. Following her graduation from the University of Minnesota, she attended TechHire’s PRIME Digital Academy in Minneapolis. After completing the 18-week computer programming course, she joined a local company called SmartThings as a software engineer – despite initially having no technical background.

To build more pipelines of talent nationwide, last year our Department’s Economic Development Administration joined forces with the Aspen Institute to launch the Communities That Work Partnership. This initiative has funded seven regional efforts nationwide aimed at identifying and closing their own unique talent gaps. Our partnership in Arizona, for example, has focused on the need for IT personnel in an array of sectors, such as health care and human resources.

The reality is that in today’s digital economy, every company is increasingly a digital company. The Arizona partnership consulted more than 200 business leaders on the specific skills they needed universities and schools to still in students and trainees. When our educational programs better match the needs of employers, we can help steer more Americans into high-tech, high-paying jobs.

There is perhaps no greater example of how digitization is transforming industry than in manufacturing. Today’s firms are incorporating new digital tools like 3D printing, data analytics, and robotics into their production. Yet manufacturers currently have over 300,000 unfilled openings nationwide. Too many young people still associate manufacturing with the assembly line jobs of the 19th century instead of the high-tech jobs of today.  That is a problem, because by 2024 our economy will need to fill over two million jobs in fields like engineering and production.

To inspire more Americans about these innovative career opportunities, we started Manufacturing Day. Held on the first Friday of October, businesses, factories, and research labs open their doors to showcase what manufacturing looks like in the 21st century. And surveys show students leave these events more excited about manufacturing careers.

Our economy is undergoing a sea change of innovation. It is up to us, as leaders in government and industry, to prepare our people to succeed in the fields of the future. We cannot drive the innovations of tomorrow without investing in our people today.

Meeting that task is a responsibility for all of us – across the public and private sectors. And the Department of Commerce is your partner in these efforts. For our economy to grow and our families to thrive, we must prepare our people to succeed in the 21st century. And we know that Airbnb and the Urban Alliance, as well as the other panelists you’ll hear from today, share this commitment. Thank for the opportunity to be here. It is now my pleasure to welcome my friend Dean Garfield to the stage. 

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Last updated: 2016-12-07 14:01

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