Most Powerful Women

Penny Pritzker's 3 factors for job growth

October 17, 2013: 10:20 AM ET

The Commerce Secretary is happy the government is back open for business but admits there is a lot of work to do.

By Heather Muse

131017094505-penny-pritzker-mpw-620xaFORTUNE -- When Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker first took the job that had been vacant for more than a year, she put a sign in her office that said "Open for business." Over the course of the government shutdown, her workers turned that sign over. Today they are open for business yet again, the sign is back where it belongs, and the department has a lot of work to do.

Speaking at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Pritzker outlined three issues that need to be addressed to promote middle-class job growth. First up is increased infrastructure spending, which means everything "from broadband to bridges." Pritzker said there were trillions of dollars in deferred investment in our infrastructure. With Capitol Hill essentially in gridlock, the private sector needs to step in and invest in this "enormous job creator."

Pritzker added that there needs to be more investment in research and development. Government and the business community need to work together on this endeavor. "Business does the development," she said, while the government provides the research.

MORE: Complete coverage of the Most Powerful Women Summit

Finally, Pritzker emphasized the importance of encouraging more workers to go into STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math). "Fifty percent of the workers on the smart grid are going to retire within the next five years," she said. These middle-class jobs do not require a Ph.D., but they do need skilled workers. Training the workforce to fill these vacancies is critical.

"We need training geared towards jobs," Pritzker said. "Which means the business sector has to get involved."

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