Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Remarks for Secretary Hilda L. Solis
TAA-CCCT Grant Announcement
St. Petersburg College Collaborative Center for Emerging Technologies
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Let me start off by thanking our incredible partners here at St. Petersburg College: President Law, Provost Vittetoe and Dean Jenkins. You really blew us away with your grant proposal and the team you've put together. We're so proud to be with you today to make national news here in Clearwater.
I know there's so much talent in the community college system. The first elected office I ever held was on the Board of Trustees of Rio Hondo Community College back in California. For millions of Americans, community colleges offer quality education that's financially within their reach. That's especially important during our recovery.
President Barack Obama has been clear that he'll pursue every good idea to put our unemployed back to work, regardless of who proposes it. Today, we're making a strategic investment in our workforce that meets the President's test.
It's my pleasure to announce that the Department of Labor is awarding $500 million to America's community colleges to train up our 21st century workforce. Our goal is simple: We're supporting schools that will work directly with companies to develop training programs that respond to the real needs of employers.
Two hundred ninety-seven community colleges across the country will share in this funding. Every state is receiving at least $2.5 million for community college career training programs. This is our second round of funding. We awarded the first $500 million under this $2 billion program last September.
The beauty of this program is that all of our grantees have formed strategic partnerships with local employers. With these monies, schools can develop training programs that will help grow the most promising local industries. They can invest in staff and educational resources and provide students with access to free, digital learning materials. All of the course materials developed through these grants will be available for use by other education providers through a Creative Commons license.
You should all be very proud of the work being done here at St. Petersburg College it really came through in your application. I'm happy to announce that the application submitted by St. Petersburg College and its partners will be fully funded at $15 million. And because of its leadership, St. Petersburg College will receive approximately $6.2 million of that total.
The focus will be on developing advanced manufacturing learning pathways. We know that American manufacturers take a backseat to no one in the global marketplace. Go to any country in the world, and the "Made in the USA" label means quality and prestige.
Our traditional manufacturers have led the world for many years, and we're determined to lead the world in advanced manufacturing, as well. To accomplish this, we must do two things: First, we must level the playing field. Second, we must own it. We know we can do it because we have the world's hardest workers, the world's best universities and the world's most creative entrepreneurs.
Florida has all of the tools to be a global leader in advanced manufacturing. St. Petersburg College has put together a great coalition under the Florida TRADE Program. They've brought together business leaders, educators, workforce professionals, industry experts, and community organizations. This grant will put all the key players on the same team working toward a common goal.
This is what President Obama is talking about when he says: "We're stronger when we work together." It's not just a statement of American values. It's also a winning strategy for growth. A well-trained workforce means higher productivity, higher quality, higher profits and higher growth. And that adds up to more good-paying jobs.
Florida is modeling the kind of statewide partnership the Department of Labor believes can take our workforce to the next level. They're creating a new educational pathway to address a skills mismatch in advanced manufacturing. Here in Florida, we know there's a pressing need for welders, machinists, engineers, quality control experts, technicians and master mechanics. These are good-paying jobs that are open right now to candidates with the right skills.
Thirty-eight employers are part of the TRADE coalition here in Florida. These are companies with jobs to fill today and plans to expand tomorrow. They've opened a direct line of communication into the community colleges. They're conveying the skills they need to school faculty, who are designing courses that teach these skills to job-seekers across Florida.
It's a team effort. Workforce professionals at our American Job Centers across Florida will play a key role. They'll help recruit folks and place them in the right program that matches their skills and interests. They'll focus on helping our returning veterans enroll, so Florida firms can put their incredible talents to work.
The training programs include an online component, so some of the initial coursework can be done by students at home. Then, there will be hands-on training at places like the Collaborative Center for Emerging Technologies, so students can get actual real-world experience doing the work. They'll earn industry-recognized credentials or as I like to call them "tickets to employment." They'll participate in internships coordinated by the Manufacturing Association of Florida. And they'll get opportunities to meet and network with employers that are looking to hire.
The goal is to move graduates into employment within six months. We're confident this goal can be met. Many workers in Florida already have strong manufacturing skills. Some were laid off when their factory closed or their jobs were moved overseas through no fault of their own. These folks just need to learn about the latest processes and innovations, so they can adapt their skills.
American workers are resilient. And they're also savvy. People will go back to school if the program is affordable and they have confidence it will lead to a job once they graduate. Over the next decade, nearly half of all job openings nationwide will be for "middle-skill" jobs. These are positions that require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year college degree. These are white-collar, blue-collar and green-collar jobs that pay family-sustaining wages. Actually, they're more than just jobs. They're pathways to better-paying careers.
Right now, there are high-growth industries in the great state of Florida that can't find skilled labor to fill open positions. We're going to change that. This program will train workers for jobs that are open today in industries that will still be hiring tomorrow. It will help young workers looking for that first job after high school, and it will help older unemployed workers start new careers.
President Obama has set the goal for America to have the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. Never in our nation's history has it been more important for workers to continue their education after high school. Today, we take a critical step to reassure workers that investing in their education is the right move. We're so excited to support our partners here in Florida. They'll be training a world-class workforce to make the products that that the world wants to buy.
So with that, I will wrap up my comments and again congratulate the faculty and administration for their exciting proposal. Thank you for hosting us today.