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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
YouthBuild Grant Announcement
Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Washington, D.C.

Today, the Department of Labor is focused on investing in our most precious asset: our young people. America's long-term economic recovery will only be as strong as the systems we put in place to help our youth get ahead.

This afternoon, I'm in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, with Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline to announce new funding under my department's YouthBuild program.

As a country, we have to give more of our youth hands-on training opportunities to prepare them for successful careers. One of the hurdles we face is the dropout crisis in America. Every day, 7,000 students drop out of high school across the country. That's one dropout every 26 seconds.

Earning a GED is critical to getting these young people back on track so they can continue their education and find good jobs. Right now, just 1 in 10 Latinos who drops out earn a GED. Just 2 in 10 African-Americans who drop out earn a GED. And 3 in 10 white students who drop out earn a GED. Our dropout crisis risks America's competitiveness and our economic future. We must give youth who've made a wrong turn a second chance to earn workforce skills. If we don't, we'll lose valuable contributors to our economy — and risk falling behind other countries.

Today, the Department of Labor is awarding more than $75 million in federal funds to 74 YouthBuild programs in 28 states and the District of Columbia. Our grantees include community organizations, faith-based groups, local workforce boards and career centers. These are three-year grants and they will serve nearly 5,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24.

Many participants have been in the juvenile justice system are aging out of foster care or have dropped out of high school. This year, we've done something a little different. We've expanded the training program to fields outside of construction; 24 of our grantees will offer training in high growth industries like healthcare, HVAC, and communication technology.

There's no substitute for the real-world experience of work — or the feeling of pride and purpose that comes with earning your first paycheck. I know our economic recovery has been hard on our youth. Many jobs traditionally filled by young people have gone to older workers. But we've made some progress this year in putting our young people back to work. Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 2.1 million youth found work between April and July of 2012. A total of 19 ½ million young people had jobs last month. That's up more than 900,000 from this time last year. Youth employment increased across a wide variety of industries — including education and health, manufacturing, transportation and utilities.

But there's more to do, and YouthBuild is part of the solution. It gives teenagers who've taken a wrong turn a chance to turn their lives around. It has created tens of thousands of success stories across the country, and we expect this year's grantees to continue this tradition. YouthBuild is good for our communities, it's good for our economic recovery, and it's good for our children's future.