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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Ottumwa Job Corps Center — Indian Hills Community Center
Ottumwa, Iowa
Sunday, August 9, 2009

Thank you, Senator Harkin, for that kind introduction.

Just a few weeks ago I was visiting "DMACC" — and it is great to be back in Iowa!

I want to thank Senator Harkin for all of his work on behalf of the people of Iowa and across this nation and the world. Senator Harkin has been a champion on issues that matter most — like health care, the economy, workers rights and education. I also want to thank Senator Harkin for his efforts to bring this Job Corps Center to Ottumwa!

And I would like to thank President Lindermayer, other elected officials and the employees of the Indian Hills Community College for their commitment to this project.

My single most important focus at the Department of Labor is good jobs for everyone.

Since confirmed, my staff and I have worked aggressively to enact the pieces of the Recovery Act that will protect workers who have lost their jobs, provide new worker training opportunities for workers, and create new job opportunities in emerging sectors such as clean energy jobs and health care. We are making strategic investments in our country that will give Americans the relief they need to make it through these difficult times.

Just two days ago, we released the most recent unemployment numbers. While our economy lost fewer jobs than expected, we are not satisfied with the unemployment rate of 9.4%. These numbers — and most importantly the workers and families behind the numbers — are a reminder that we still have a lot of work to do on behalf of America's families.

Young people have been hit the hardest during this recession and have an unemployment rate of 23.8%. That is why the Job Corps program at the Department of Labor is so vital. As the nation's largest career technical training and education program for young people, Job Corps offers hands-on training in more than 100 career technical areas. These areas include some of the fastest growing job sectors such as health care, information technology and renewable energy. A comprehensive energy plan will help jump start the clean energy sector — creating millions of new jobs that will cut pollution and produce alternative sources of energy. Jobs that will export products — not paychecks!

With Iowa at the helm, rural America will help our nation lead the world in clean energy, and rural communities will reap the benefits of clean energy investments. That is why President Obama is committed to a clean energy system, and I am committed to training workers for jobs in these industries!

And as we invest in training a well-skilled and productive workforce, we also must ensure their health in the workplace. That is why we must also fix our health insurance system, so Americans can get the high-quality, affordable care they need and deserve. Right now in Iowa, premiums cost 88% more than they did in 2000. Through health insurance reform, nearly 310,500 middle class Iowa residents benefit from premium credits to ease the burden of the cost of premiums, and at the same time small businesses, which employ more than 65,500 people, could shop for more affordable health insurance coverage.

So, as we stand here on the future site of the Ottumwa Job Corps Center, it is important that we realize that we will train a new generation of Iowans by providing them with the education and job skills needed in the 21st Century economy.

I am also pleased to announce today a National Emergency Grant of $521,910 to assist 90 workers affected by layoffs at Featherlite, Inc., in Cresco, Iowa. This money will provide services including skills assessment, basic skills training, individual career counseling and occupational skills training.

This money is just one portion of the more than $115.9 million the Department of Labor has invested in the state of Iowa since January of this year. More than $22 million of this is from the Recovery Act which would not have been available without the leadership of Senator Harkin.

Over the last 160 days, more than 30,000 Recovery Act projects have been approved. These projects create jobs and cause a ripple effect across other sectors. And as a direct result of the billions of dollars in Recovery Act assistance already on the ground in our communities, tens of thousands of teachers, law enforcement officials and firefighters are staying on the job at our schools, police stations and firehouses.

Our economic problems were years in the making and will not be solved over night. The road to recovery is long but we are making the right investments and getting closer and closer to that goal.

Congratulations to all of you and congratulations to the Ottumwa Job Corps Center!

 

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