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

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
White House Youth Clean Energy Forum
Washington, DC
December 2, 2009

Good afternoon.

Thank you all for being here today.

I want to start by saying that it is an honor to be with so many young people that are passionate about protecting our environment. You are truly an inspiration.

As you all know, our country is facing many challenges. Families are struggling in today's economy and our unemployment rate is at 10.2%. For young people the unemployment rate is an astonishing 27.5%.

This is unacceptable to me and to the President.

In order to help American families, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Recovery Act expanded assistance to families and states to help them survive the recession. At the same time we are making investments that are creating jobs today, and laying the groundwork for prosperity in the future. The Recovery Act also includes billions of dollars for cities and states across the country — to strengthen our clean energy industries, reduce our energy use, and preserve and create good jobs that can't be outsourced … what we all call Green Jobs.

People want to work and they want good paying jobs! That is why the President and I strongly believe that green jobs will be a key driver behind America's economic recovery and sustained economic stability. That is why I authored the Green Jobs Act as a member of Congress. It is also why the Department of Labor is investing $500 million in projects that prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

To show my commitment, on November 18th, we released nearly $55 million in grants to help workers, many in underserved and underrepresented communities, find jobs in green industries. And I want you to know that more money and help is on the way.

The greening of our economy will bring significant changes to the American workplace and will require workers to have new and different skills. We are supporting activities to retrain dislocated workers, women, veterans, minorities, and youth.

As I have traveled to several Job Corps centers around the country, I have witnessed first-hand the promise of green jobs and the future they can provide.
This is why we are investing over $220 million to train Job Corps students in careers in renewable energy and other high-growth industries.

Job Corps is a free education and training program that helps young people learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED, and find and keep a good job. Job Corps offers hands-on training in more than 100 career technical areas, including:

  • renewable energy (green jobs),
  • information technology,
  • construction,
  • allied health and many more.

We are also awarding $114 million to our Youth Build partners to provide education and training for green jobs. Youth Build provides at-risk youth with jobs and skills that will help them further their careers, with a strong emphasis on community service and leadership development. By providing the training that will turn 20th century jobs into secure 21st century green jobs, we are paving a pathway out of poverty; strengthening urban and rural communities; and protecting the health of our citizens and planet. This investment in our workforce will not only jumpstart our economy today, but will lay the foundation for America's long-term competitiveness.

The bigger question is … who will lead the world in making the fuel-efficient vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels and other technologies of tomorrow.

Let me tell who will … American workers, and all of you here today will show us the way, but in order to do that, we need more young people studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math … what we call STEM careers. America needs a world-class STEM workforce to address the grand challenges of the 21st century, such as:

  • discovering cures for cancer;
  • creating the latest advancements in technology; and
  • developing clean sources of energy that reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

By making strategic choices now, we will restore our country's role as a global leader in the clean energy industry. We will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and begin to make America truly energy independent. Our goal must be a clean energy future that works for all Americans, so that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren not just a stronger economy, but a cleaner planet.

So, what do you say? Are you fired up? Are you ready to go?

We need passionate young people like you to help lead the way and partner with us in the greening of our country.

Thank you all for your wonderful work, and I look forward to hearing more about the efforts you are undertaking.