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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
Registered Apprenticeship 75th Anniversary
Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the Department of Labor.

I’m so proud to be able to host this celebration in the house of Labor today. We’ve got an incredible program this morning. But before we get started, I’d like to introduce a very special guest who has taken the time to join us today. And I know it’s because she shares our unyielding commitment to the development, well-being, and advancement of American workers.

For decades, Senator Patty Murray has worked to ensure that people in every community of her state have access to job training and to the many benefits of registered apprenticeship programs.
And last week, she introduced a resolution in the United States Senate commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Registered Apprenticeship. There is truly no better person to help us kick-off today’s summit.

We are so grateful to have her with us. Please help me in welcoming to the stage, the Honorable Senator Patty Murray from the great state of Washington.

Thank you, Senator Murray for those inspirational words.

I also want to thank my dear friend and president of the Building and Construction Trades, Sean McGarvey for being with us this morning. Thank you for your years of leadership and for the incredible work you’re doing with the Building Trades.

We’ve also got Mr. Everett Jordan, Director of Education for the Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding with us today. Everett, thank you for being here and for setting such an incredible example.

Last but not least, I want to thank each and every one of you here—union leaders, operators of apprenticeship programs, business and community leaders, the Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship—all of you. You represent the proud history and the great promise of the future for middle class families.

I strongly believe in Registered Apprenticeship Programs. Because I’ve seen the great things they can do—and the lives they can change. Since my very first day as the Secretary of Labor, I’ve called apprenticeship one of America’s best-kept secrets.

But thanks to you, the word is getting out. It’s getting out to communities—large and small. It’s getting out in underserved neighborhoods—to women, minorities, young people and veterans. And it’s getting out to new industries … new companies … new colleges … and a new generation of American workers. It’s getting out because of people like you.

 

So thank you for being here, for your vision, and for your commitment to keeping the apprenticeship tradition alive.

As you can recall, we held our first exhibit of the finest apprenticeship programs in this country last year on the National Mall. We celebrated the role apprenticeship is playing to help us out-build, out-educate and out-build our global competitors. Today, we build on that progress. We celebrate just how far we’ve come in 75 years.And we chart our course forward for the next 75.

Apprenticeships have been around since colonial times—when blacksmiths and cobblers took pupils under their wings and taught them a trade. This model helped drive our incredible progress in the Industrial Age as apprenticeships took root in manufacturing and construction.

And since the passage of the National Apprenticeship Act in 1937, the Department of Labor has proudly embraced our role to help support industry’s efforts to pass on critical knowledge from one generation to the next.

Today, we honor trailblazers in organized labor, like the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters.They registered the first national apprenticeship program and gave the nation a model to follow.

They’ve showed us how the combination of on-the-job learning and classroom instruction is a powerful tool for workers to acquire new skills. How mentorship can create a sense of empowerment and pride—especially for veterans and young people looking to start a career.

And now we’re looking to expand apprenticeships like never before. There’s no better way to honor a tradition than to build on it—to make it bigger, better and stronger. So we’re using the UA model to train computer programmers, pharmacy techs, and even young doctors at the CDC to improve patient care.

We’re mentoring the caregivers who nurture our children as they grow up and our parents as they grow old. We’re supporting a new generation of workers who earn while they learn: wind turbine technicians, green plumbers, green electricians and green insulators. We’re on the cutting edge of technology and workforce development—and there’s still so much room to grow. We’re reinventing apprenticeship in ways never imagined 75 years ago.

I’m the daughter of a Teamsters steward, and I know that when labor and management work together, we’re unstoppable. The Registered Apprenticeship model represents this ideal at its best.

There’s a reason why industry invests $1 billion every year in apprenticeship programs. Because they work. They improve skills. They improve wages. And they improve a company’s bottom line.When all of these things happen together, they improve our economy and our way of life.

Now community colleges and state workforce agencies are joining us to help support Registered Apprenticeship in the 21st Century. Together, we’re reaching deeper into underserved communities and helping folks earn college credit if they choose to continue their education through apprenticeship programs. 

We’ve registered 24,000 apprenticeship programs, and more are being launched every day. And we’re giving hundreds of thousands of Americans industry-recognized credentials. Something that employers want—and that workers need. Credentials can help workers move up in their job—or move anywhere in America—knowing that their abilities will be recognized and their futures will be secure.

But workers also need information. They need to know the very real and meaningful that ways that apprenticeship programs can help them and contribute to their livelihood.

That’s why today, I’m proud to announce the release of a study showing that those who complete a registered apprenticeship program earn at least a quarter of a million dollars more over the course of their lifetime. The study also shows that the public benefits from almost $50,000 as a result of these programs.

So, to all those looking for an innovative workforce solution: Look no further than the nation's best keep secret if you want a low cost, high return approach to securing life long careers that can build a path into the middle class.

I’m also pleased to announce that we will be launching a “registered apprenticeship to College Credit Consortia” that will allow apprentices to earn college credit more easily. As you know, many apprentices get very close to earning credentials or completing an associate’s degree during the course of their program.

So we want to bring apprenticeship programs and community colleges together—to better connect the dots for apprentices about where and how they can earn college credit. Many of the partners already involved are represented here today, like the Ivy Tech Community College System in Indiana. The states of Ohio, New Jersey and Wisconsin are also actively involved in this effort and are represented here today.

My hope is that this summit will generate even more ideas about how to engage more states and community colleges across the country. So I hope you enjoy today’s program. And more importantly, I hope you will learn from one another and help us learn from you.

You’re the experts. You are the leaders who can chart our next steps after today’s summit. You are the leaders who can help us take the innovation we’re showcasing today and replicate them on a national scale. We need you. This country needs your expertise.

So I challenge you all to send me your best ideas on how we can advance Registered Apprenticeship into the 21st Century. And know this: My department stands ready to work with you every step of the way.
Today, I’m asking my Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship—which has done tremendous work—to bring me recommendations from this summit on how we can best move forward.

Working side by side, we’ll create a future even brighter than our past. You inspire us, and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store.  So let’s take a moment to applaud our success, to celebrate how far we’ve come and to imagine how far we can travel together, still.

Happy 75th anniversary, my friends … and many more.