Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
AS I SEE IT: 45 years of Job Corps success
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
By Hilda L. Solis
This week marks the observance of a very special anniversary. Job Corps is the federal government's oldest and most successful residential education and training program. It provides students with the skills and knowledge that help them enter the work force, the military and higher education. And, for 45 years, it has helped build the lives and launch the careers of some of America's neediest youth.
Job Corps was established in 1964 by Lyndon B. Johnson as an instrument in the War on Poverty. Created as part of the network of social programs that came to be known as the Great Society, Job Corps was designed to give disadvantaged youth a foothold to the middle class. Today it has evolved into a program that not only gives second chances for our young men and women, but also provides a vital service to our returning veterans as they transition back into civilian life. Simply put, Job Corps works because it helps young people build their future.
These facts are especially important to keep in mind today. Although our economy is already showing signs of a recovery, President Obama and I are not satisfied with the high rate of unemployment. In August, Massachusetts' unemployment rate stood at 9.1 percent. An unemployment rate of 9.1 percent is simply unacceptable. That number and most importantly the working families who bear its true burden are a constant reminder that we still have a lot of work to do.
Given that Job Corps was born out of tough economic times, the program is uniquely positioned to aid the nation through its current economic situation. As the secretary of labor, I am committed to providing all workers including young people with a real opportunity to develop the education and skills needed to succeed in the 21st-century economy. With funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Job Corps is transforming its career technical training curriculum to include some of the fastest-growing job sectors, including pharmaceuticals, health care, information technology and renewable energy.
With the President's comprehensive energy program helping to jump-start the clean energy sector and create millions of new jobs, we are also opening training opportunities for young people in those green industries.
These are more than just "new jobs," they are American jobs of the future the kind that export products, not paychecks. They are a true gateway out of the economic downturn. Job Corps participants understand that notion, and their commitment to excellence and achievement reflects their commitment to making it a reality.
In my first eight months in office I have traveled to Job Corps centers around the country, including the center in Exeter, R.I. I am constantly impressed by the resiliency, hopefulness, optimism and drive of Job Corps students. These young people renew my faith. They remind me that no matter the situation, America can overcome any challenge.
While our economic problems will not be solved overnight, Job Corps is certainly a big part of the solution. Our investment in these young men and women is essential as we look ahead to the next generation work force. And, if the past 45 years are any indication, we have incredible success to look forward to.
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