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

Remarks for Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
TAA Community College Career Training Initiative Grant Announcement
Washington, DC,
September 26, 2011

Thank you, Dr. Biden, for joining us today on the call. Dr. Biden and I have both seen the great promise of our community college system. She's an educator and I used to be an administrator.

The first elected office I ever held was on the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees back in California. I know there's so much talent in our community college system. For millions of Americans, these schools offer real-world training and an education that's financially within their reach.

When President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act earlier this month, he said he would pursue every good idea to put our unemployed back to work, no matter who proposes it. Today, we're making a strategic investment in our workforce that meets the President's test.

My department's TAA Community College Career Training Initiative is responsive to the realities of the global economy. It's a program that will help workers obtain the skills they need to get job offers in industries that are hiring right now.

Today, the Department of Labor is awarding $500 million in this initial round of our TAA-CCT grant awards. Every state is receiving at least $2.5 million for community college career training programs.

Community colleges are a linchpin of President Obama's strategy to help every American receive at least one year of post-secondary education. The administration's goal is for America to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. It's critical that we meet this goal.

Never in our nation's history has it been more important for workers to continue their education after high school. Right now, there are high-growth industries in this country that can't find skilled labor to fill open positions. We need to train up our workers immediately to fill them.

Community colleges are community assets. They understand the needs of local employers. We've designed this grant program to help meet the needs of local industry. The beauty of this program is that every single grantee has formed partnerships with one or more employers that have open positions to fill but lack the skilled workers to fill them.

The colleges will work with their industry partners to develop training programs that meet the needs of local job-creators. With these federal monies, community colleges can hire staff, buy equipment and develop curriculums. In a tough economy, this approach will help reassure workers that investing in their education is the right move.

I mentioned the realities of globalization. Growing foreign competition means that many lower-skilled jobs are being replaced by positions that require specialized training. When workers lose jobs they've had their entire lives because of foreign competition, we know it's very painful.

But the American worker is resilient. Folks will go back to school if the program is affordable and if they have confidence it will lead to a job once they graduate. For those who can't afford community college, this program will also create OER materials. OER stands for open educational resources. These are training materials that our grantees will develop and put online for free, so no worker is denied valuable training due to financial constraints.

These efforts are so important. We know that the demand for skilled labor — especially in technology-related fields — is growing rapidly. Over the next decade, nearly half of all openings will be for "middle-skill" jobs. These are positions that require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year college degree. These are white-collar, blue-collar and green-collar jobs that pay family-sustaining wages. Actually, they're more than just jobs. They're pathways to better-paying careers in every sector of the economy — in fields like manufacturing, renewable energy, broadband, healthcare, and information technology.

This funding will help America's community colleges train workers for jobs that are open today in industries that will still be hiring tomorrow. It will help young workers looking for that first job after high school, and it will help older workers start new careers when their factory closes.

I'll close by returning to the President's point. There's no silver bullet that will end our economic crisis overnight; we have to embrace good ideas. The American Jobs Act includes a number of critical investments in our workforce that are needed to attract businesses that have good-paying 21st century jobs to fill. We know that if Congress will invest in the American worker, our economy will adapt and recover, and we will put millions of unemployed people back to work. Thank you.