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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
Community College to Career Fund Media Teleconference
Washington, D.C.,
Monday, February 13, 2012

Thank you, Arne.

I'm thrilled to be on this call today to shine a spotlight on our commitment to skills training for the American worker.

I know some people in this town try to minimize the importance of Budget Day because of all the gridlock on Capitol Hill.

I know there's a lot of election-year pessimism about moving a budget.

But we should come together around a set of unifying national priorities for economic growth.

This is an important day on the 2012 calendar because it's a written document outlining this administration's priorities and our President's values.

This is our blueprint for a stronger workforce, a stronger recovery, and a stronger economy.

Some politicians believe that in this time of fiscal challenge, we cannot afford to invest in the American worker.

They are short-sided and wrong.

America's future will only be as strong as the industries we create and grow.

And that means we must support our entrepreneurs, our workers and the institutions that train them.

We need to foster new skills to match the new challenges of our 21st century economy.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama drove home the point that it's unacceptable that American companies have millions of unfilled job openings at a time of 8.3 percent unemployment.

Much of our political debate today is focused on creating jobs. This challenge is foremost on my mind.

But creating jobs is only part of the puzzle. We also must do more to help job-seekers acquire the skills to land jobs that are already open.

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 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.

And we've set the companion goal to graduate an additional 5 million students from our community college system by 2020.

Never in our nation's history has it been more important for workers to continue their education after high school.

Community colleges are community assets. They understand the needs of local employers.

Under the President's plans, our community 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.

Our new $8 billion Community College to Career Fund will help America's community colleges provide pathways to high-skilled jobs in high-growth industries.

It's designed to help workers obtain the skills they need to get job offers in industries that are hiring right now.

The Fund will allow federal agencies to partner with state and local governments to encourage businesses to invest in America.

State and local governments will be able to apply for grants to encourage companies to locate in the U.S. because of the availability of training to quickly skill up the local workforce.

Why should we care about community college capacity building? I'll tell you why.

Companies want to do business in places where pools of qualified workers already live.

We're helping employers match what's taught in the classroom with their needs in an office or on the factory floor.

This Fund will also support pathways to entrepreneurship for 5 million small business owners over three years through the nation's workforce system.

Our community college investments are driven by the realities of globalization.

Growing foreign competition means that many lower-skilled jobs are being replaced by positions that require specialized training.

I talk a lot as Labor Secretary about training up our STEM workforce in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

We project one million new job openings in these fields over the next decade.

America needs more scientists, more engineers, more researchers, more technicians.

On average, those who study a STEM field in college will make a half-million dollars more over their lifetimes than people in other majors.

So that's a powerful incentive for us to invest in our 21st century workforce.

Later this month, I will be touring some of America's community colleges with Dr. Jill Biden, and I'm very excited about this trip.

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.

Dr. Biden and I already visited one partnership in Reno this month … where we saw how a local community college was graduating hundreds of nurses to address our national shortage in this profession.

I think the President has hit on a winning model to grow other sectors facing similar workforce challenges.

So as you all go through this budget, I hope you will spend some time and ink talking about this investment in our workforce and our community college system.

I think it's going to be essential component to our long-term economic recovery and American global competitiveness in the 21st century.

Thank you for your interest, and now I'll turn the call back over to our moderator for some questions.