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

Remarks for Secretary Hilda L. Solis
Truckee Meadows Community College Nursing Roundtable
Reno, Nevada
Thursday, January 19, 2012

Let me start by thanking our partners at Truckee Meadows and Renown Medical Hospital for hosting us today. 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 in California. I know there's so much talent in our community college system. The Department of Labor's TAA Community College Career Training Initiative is investing $2 billion to help our community colleges provide pathways to jobs. Our goal is to foster partnerships exactly like this one. It's a program designed to help workers obtain the skills they need to get job offers in industries that are hiring right now.

Community colleges are at the center of President Obama's strategy to help every American receive at least one year of post-secondary education. The President's goal is for America to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. Never in our nation's history has it been more important for workers to continue their education after high school.

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. With these federal monies, community colleges can hire staff, buy equipment and develop curriculums.

In a tough economy, our approach is intended to reassure workers that investing in their education is a smart move. America has a critical nursing shortage, and we expect it will only intensify as Baby Boomers get older and the need for health care grows.

The average age of the registered nurse is climbing. There are more nurses in their 50s right now than any other age range. They account for almost one-quarter of our nursing workforce. So it's critical that we prepare for these retirements and train up our next generation of nurses.

We also know that many schools across the country have struggled to meet the rising need for more nursing professionals. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more than 32 million Americans will soon gain access to healthcare services. This includes access to care provided by registered nurses.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing found that nursing schools turned away more than 67,000 qualified applicants in 2010. This was due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, and budget constraints. Our nursing school administrators overwhelmingly have said faculty shortages are one reason qualified applicants are being turned away. That's why the Department of Labor awarded a 1.5 million job training grant to Truckee Meadows Community College to help train up our nursing professionals.

We're proud this program has already helped more than 125 people here in Reno find work in the nursing profession. We know that number is only going to get bigger. So I'm really looking forward to today's panel discussion, because the partnership here today is about putting Americans to work and helping improve health care outcomes. The research is clear: More nurses mean fewer deaths, fewer infections and shorter hospital stays.

This is such a critical profession, and on behalf of this administration, I want to thank all of you who are training our nurses and becoming nurses. Your work is so vitally important. Thank you for this opportunity to join you here today.