A Conversation With DOL’s Jane Oates

By Dora Smith

Jane Oates on stage at PLM Connection
By now you may have heard we had a unique keynote presentation Tuesday at PLM Connection. Typically customers speak about what is happening in their business and how they are apply PLM technology to address those issues. This year we invited Jane Oates, the assistant Secretary of State for the Department of Labor’s Workforce Training and Administration, to speak about closing the technical workforce gap. She spoke to many Siemens PLM customers at the event, noting:

“What I heard from the business people was that PLM was the connector…technology has enabled us to build partnerships that geography stood in the way of before.”

Here is our video interview:

Jane emphasized the role community colleges play in closing the technical workforce gap:
“The community college system is everywhere.  They are much more flexible in adapting their curriculum. I believe they speak more fluent business… I think they are going to be the go-to people…It’s not about courses alone but how you put them together to gain the right credentials to have buying power in the workplace.”

“What Siemens is doing as such an incredible corporate citizen, a $65 million investment… the difference that is going to make to the Iowa economy. The idea of making this best practice and seeing where it can go to scale, I think it is amazing…(the curriculum) is exactly the right thing. The right mix of academic courses…but then the reality of that project -based learning…That work-based learning was there… I think the employers will jump at that.”

Jane used to be a teacher in the Boston and Philadelphia public schools. She has done research in human development and education. She has a bachelor’s of arts in education from Boston College, and an master’s of education from Arcadia University. I also found out she is a speed reader – having taught speed reading over the summer teaching vacation. I asked her what she would say to encourage students to consider STEM-related careers:
“Understand that the things that you like to do like gaming and simulation are real jobs. Look for them…there is not a person in the world who would not be intrigued by that.”

She pointed out that we’ ve got to listen to young students who might be thinking a little farther out of the box than their teachers. High school science teacher Lisa Harding noted this in our interview. It was one of her students who pushed the school to start a science club and get into robotics competitions.

While Siemens PLM works with academic institutions to grant software licenses, there are still costs for space and hardware. Iowa Western has raised $1.4 million so far through outreach to the local community. Jane encourages community colleges to apply for DOL’s multi-year assistance grants .

If you want to hear more details on the Design Technology program at Iowa Western Community College, stay tuned, I interviewed instructor Joe Vanstrom and will share that shortly. In the meantime, remember you can download the white paper and curriculum we’ve made available.

– Dora

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at