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Siemens USA CEO: Supporting an infrastructure bill that invests in America’s workers

Barbara Humpton, President and CEO, Siemens USA

Over the past 15 months, as our nation faced a health, economic and societal crisis, we’ve seen how vital our critical infrastructure is. And how much we depend on the people behind it.


It’s why a critical piece of investment as we focus on modernizing our infrastructure will be connecting people to the good-paying careers in these industries that form the backbone of our economy.


This week I had an opportunity to participate in several conversations on workforce development as part of SelectUSA, the country’s premier summit for international investment. One of those conversations was moderating a virtual armchair discussion with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Labor Secretary Martin Walsh that highlighted how business and government can work together – and learn from each other – to support a strong and skilled workforce.


The two Secretaries have been speaking to people across the country about the American Jobs Plan, the Administration’s bold proposal for economic recovery, job creation and infrastructure upgrades, and they shared how these investments are designed to build more prosperous and equitable communities.


As I’ve written in previous posts, an expansive view of infrastructure that goes beyond roads and bridges is critical to transforming our buildings, energy systems and manufacturing base for a more sustainable and resilient future. But here I want to focus on the most critical component, the people who will run these infrastructure systems of the future, and why now is the time for expanding career pathways and making them more accessible.


As I saw at SelectUSA, workforce development is top of mind for government officials and business leaders alike. And there seems to be a real interest in strengthening the ecosystem of government, business and educational institutions working together, sharing best practices and cultivating partnerships to better match talent to business demand.


In the panel I participated in with Secretary Raimondo and other business leaders, I left encouraged by the Secretary’s comments on work-based learning models and technology apprenticeships in fields like advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity, as well as the Department of Commerce’s focus on advancing equity.


Other mentions of legislation championing registered apprenticeships and funding for workforce development, including the hiring and retaining of skilled workers, offered signs of policy support from Congress. 


What I hope we’re seeing is a move, at the federal level, to think in terms of careers, rather than jobs. The idea of lifelong learning, the recognition of multiple pathways to success and the creation of stackable, portable credentials across the United States would empower workers to own their careers and career progression.        


The idea of lifelong learning, the recognition of multiple pathways to success and the creation of stackable, portable credentials across the United States would empower workers to own their careers and career progression.

To help foster that growth, the Department of Commerce launched a new Women in Tech Mentorship Network during the summit to better support female entrepreneurs and leaders, who are underrepresented in tech fields, and the White House reaffirmed its commitment to open investment.


For our part at Siemens, we’re developing technical training pathways and building talent pipelines with more than 100,000 academic institutions nationwide, so that students have access to our technologies, whether or not they end up joining our team. And we’re supporting our own employees by investing $37 million annually in employee training programs.


We’re also putting a bigger spotlight on the opportunities that are currently available. This week we started a new communications campaign called “Where the Jobs Are,” which will showcase the more than 2,000 positions we have open. We simply have a tremendous need for advanced, highly technical skills – from welding to software development.


Some of our positions require a four-year degree, but nearly a third of our current hiring demand is actually in the skilled trades – good-paying jobs with career advancement potential that require some STEM knowledge and some technical training accessed at a community college or through an apprenticeship. It’s the same type of pathway that could help someone access the record 700,000 open manufacturing positions that the sector has nationwide.


Several years ago, we were inspired by our German roots to create apprenticeship opportunities in the United States, and most recently started a new apprenticeship program at our newly expanded manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina. This joins our support for youth apprenticeships through the Siemens Foundation’s work with New America, which would introduce more K-12 students to work-based learning.


Finally, I’ll note that I have the privilege of serving as chair of the Siemens Foundation, which has been at the forefront of how we build a more inclusive workforce, from getting software and hardware into classrooms to cultivating partnerships with key agencies and organizations like the Department of Labor, the National Governors Association and the Aspen Institute. The Foundation has invested more than $130 million in workforce development and STEM education in the United States.


The Foundation’s work is also reflective of our need to address systemic barriers to opportunity and representation, both for today’s workers and the next generation of engineers, technicians and makers. When the pandemic revealed deep health, racial and social disparities in our communities, the Foundation pivoted its attention to those most affected, building new relationships with community health centers, HBCUs and nonprofits working to expand vaccine access in Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities.


This is how we can truly support a workforce that drives American leadership and innovation in our critical industries and infrastructure over the next century. In addition to investment and training, the big task before us – the responsibility before us – is to cultivate the full range of talent that exists in every community and in every person. Because when everyone has the opportunity to thrive, we all succeed.


Published: June 11, 2021