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Best practices: BMW’s dual apprenticeship and vocational training program (online), 2 December 2013 - Strong partnerships between employers, educational institutions and local communities are essential for effective workforce training programs, according to a blog from the U.S. Commerce Department. Secretary Penny Pritzker had recently announced a strategic vision for the Department of Commerce, which includes a focus on ensuring that workers are prepared with the skills that employers need.

For example, in North and South Carolina, employers such as BMW have been using this approach to develop innovative apprenticeship programs that are preparing workers for 21st-century manufacturing occupations.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker traveled to Germany to observe how employers there are incorporating these training programs wholesale and how these efforts can be adopted by U.S. companies. She toured BMW’s training facilities at their headquarters in Munich, Germany with CEO Dr. Norbert Reithofer and Head of Apprentice Training Jan Eggert.

Secretary Pritzker went to BMW to learn more about how the company implements the German Dual System of Vocational training, through which students receive a technical degree at a local educational institution while simultaneously participating in on-the-job training. BMW has a unique apprenticeship program, which is currently training 4,500 apprentices worldwide with the skills the company anticipates it will need from future employees. BMW has spent 1.2 billion euros on professional development since 2007.

While the majority of BMW apprentices are located in Germany, the company is expanding its program internationally, including at their Spartanburg, South Carolina plant. BMW employs more than 7,000 workers in South Carolina, and it has 70 apprentices at the facility who they are training for BMW careers. The apprenticeship program in Spartanburg has been in place since 2011 and works with three local technical colleges.

Secretary Pritzker has made skills development a top priority of the Commerce Department for the first time and is encouraging businesses to partner with local education institutions on programs that train high-quality workers for in-demand jobs. She will work closely with her counterparts, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, on developing workforce training initiatives under programs such as BMW’s model.


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