Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Remarks for Secretary Hilda L. Solis
U.S Conference of Mayors 80th Winter Meeting
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Good afternoon everyone. Buenas tardes.
Thank you all for that warm welcome. And thank you, Mayor Rawlings for that kind introduction. I'd like to begin
by thanking your leadership for inviting me to speak this afternoon. To my longtime friend, colleague and Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio, Muchas gracias.
And to everyone in this room mayors, workforce development professionals, conference staff all of you. Thank you for your good work every day on behalf of working families.
You have tough jobs, and I know it's not easy. But even in the toughest of times sometimes against all odds you continue to step up to the plate. And I know it's because you care deeply not only about the people in your communities but also about the future of our country as a whole. So thank you for all that you do.
Now, I've never been a mayor. But I have been a member of Congress, a state senator and served on the board of a community college in California. So I've worked closely with many mayors and local professionals for the larger part of my career in public service.
Being a mayor is personal. Your jobs are the most intimate and immediate form of government for our public. What you do impacts the quality of life, not just for the people in your cities, but also for your local businesses. I'm quite familiar with the very real issues you handle every single day. And I know that at the snap of finger, you're forced to make tough decisions that directly affect the lives of people that you may know by name.
I also know that, while we're now making steady progress, the financial crisis has hit you especially hard. You're feeling the pinch on everything from jobs and education, to taking out the trash, policing your streets and making sure city buses run smoothly.
It's a tough job. And you need to know that President Obama and I know that the most important thing we can do to support you is to help create jobs at the local level. A big part of that is making sure we have a skilled, competent workforce that can compete.
So, I'm not here to today to give you more rhetoric, I'm here to give you resources. Dates, deadlines and dollar amounts that will help you access the services we currently have available at the Department of Labor.
Last week, I talked with business leaders at the White House about bringing jobs back home and about how we can help other businesses follow their lead. I told them that my department is working aggressively to ensure that our programs are training people for jobs that didn't exist two, five, or ten years ago.
There are grant competitions going on right now that I want you to be aware of.
The first is called the Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF). This is $98 million to support employment and training services for vulnerable populations that need our help the most. That means we're targeting low-wage and low-skilled workers, dislocated workers and especially the long-term unemployed.
The grant application deadline is March 22, 2012. I urge you to encourage your local workforce investment boards to apply.
The second grant competition I want to tell you about is called REXO. That is our "Reintegration of Ex-Offenders" program for adults. Last week I announced $20.6 million in new grant funds to organizations that help former inmates become taxpayers again. Ex-offenders will receive skills development, counseling, help writing resumes and other support services to help them find jobs.
This is our fifth round of funding under the program. We expect to award $1.2 million to 17 different grantees across America. The bottom line is to help former inmates become law-abiding workers.
Those who want to make amends deserve the opportunity to make an honest living when they re-enter society. Because if they can't find work, they often return to a life of crime or substance abuse. If they can't find work, our communities become less safe.
We know you care about violence prevention. So we want to include you, your sheriff's offices and local courts in getting the word out about the REXO program. I encourage all of you here today to work together and submit an application.
We're also currently investing 2 billion dollars to fund partnerships between community and businesses to develop programs with a focus on training for high-growth industries.
Now, as mayors you may say: Why should we care about community college capacity building? I'll tell you why.
It's a great recruitment and retention tool to attract and keep businesses in your city. People want to do business in places where steady pools of qualified workers live. It's also a great way to get local businesses talking to your community colleges about their workforce needs.
We're helping employers match what's taught in the classroom with their needs in an office or on the factory floor. The idea here is simple: We want to match what students are learning in school with what local businesses are looking for.
Beginning next month we'll be accepting applications for $500 million in grants. I urge you to partner with your local colleges and businesses to apply for this money. I also recommend establishing consortiums that can cross county and state lines.
I want to be able to take as many questions as possible, but before I wrap up, I want talk briefly about our push to create summer jobs for young people.
Last year, many mayors some of you in this room played a huge role in our initiative to create summer youth employment opportunities. You created jobs at the local level. And you reached out to your local businesses and asked them to get involved.
I hope you will do so again this year. After all, this is your initiative. In many respects, it was the U.S. Conference of Mayors that invented this program. For many years, we had summer jobs under JPTA the Job Partnership Training Act. But that money dried up in 2000, and it was leaders like you who kept the initiative alive.
In the first two years of the Obama administration, we saw the benefits of a society that is willing to invest in its youth. More than 367,000 young people found summer work opportunities in 2009 and 2010 because of Recovery Act monies. When those Recovery Act dollars dried up last year, I made summer youth jobs a top priority at the Department of Labor.
I personally traveled to communities across the country and challenged employers to make a commitment. A number of major corporations like Jamba Juice, UPS and Wells Fargo signed on. Major nonprofits like We Are Golf helped tee up thousands of summer jobs. And local leaders like you worked with their local business leaders to secure commitments.
Together, we opened up 80,000 summer job opportunities for America's youth. Many of those who benefited were young people of color. Now the President is leading an effort to grow those numbers, and we need your help.
I attended the White House launch this month, and I told them about the U.S. Conference of Mayor's incredible track record. You will be happy to know that the administration has already secured commitments to create 175,000 summer work opportunities. The commitments include paid positions, internships, mentoring relationships and job shadowing programs.
Within the next 60 days, we'll be launching a Summer Jobs Plus Bank. This is an online search tool that's being built with help from Google, AfterCollege, Linked-In, and Internships.com. It will allow young people to see who's hiring locally.
We hope you'll post your summer jobs into the national directory, and encourage businesses in your cities to do the same. The job bank will allow you to see the corporations that have made commitments in other cities. And we hope it'll give you ideas about corporations in your cities you can pitch.
So I encourage you to reach out to Jane Oates and our Employment & Training Administration to get involved. America's youth are counting on us to give them more work opportunities and job experiences until our economy fully recovers. And there's no organization more crucial to this effort than the Conference of Mayors.
So thank you for your commitment on this and again for all that you're doing in your communities. I'll stop there and open it up for a few questions.