Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
U.S. Conference of Mayors
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Thank you Mayor Villaraigosa for that introduction.
It is a pleasure to be here this morning.
I want to take this moment to acknowledge the hard work that all of you do for America's cities and let you know that this Administration appreciates your efforts.
Cities are where "the rubber meets the road" and we are thankful for your support at making our programs work at the local level.
I would also like to thank and acknowledge the work of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
My staff meets with them regularly and you should know that your organization is well-represented.
You all know that we have faced hard economic times.
The national unemployment rate is at 10%, and in many of your cities it is even higher and especially in communities of color.
There is not one day that goes by that I do not think about the millions of Americans that are struggling to find a job.
I want you all to know that this Administration is focused on job creation every single day.
We are working hard to increase economic growth and spur renewed hiring for the millions of Americans who are out of work.
The Department of Labor is working tirelessly to ensure that we fulfill our responsibility to provide workers with the assistance they need today in order to prepare for the careers of tomorrow.
Good Jobs for Everyone has been my goal from Day One and it will continue to be in 2010.
Good jobs are those that can support families with higher incomes and by narrowing the wage gap.
A good job is safe and secure, and gives people a voice in the workplace.
Good jobs, like green jobs are good examples of sustainable and innovative jobs.
We must export products, not paychecks in this new economy.
And a good job is one that will help to restore the middle class.
In this economy, that's a tall order; however, I am more confident than ever that we will reach this goal because of the steps we have taken and the investments we have made in workers.
Under the Recovery Act, the Department of Labor has performed several key responsibilities.
We are providing worker training that leads to sustained employment, protecting workers, and easing the burden of the recession on workers and employers to help jumpstart the recovery.
As part of implementation of the Recovery Act, we have:
- Invested $3.5 billion in worker training funds into local and state worker training programs;
- Distributed $2.8 billion for unemployment insurance, which increased the share of unemployed workers receiving benefits to the highest level in more than 30 years;
- Served more than 2.3 million workers through local and state employment-related services; and
- Awarded nearly half a billion dollars in grants for career training in clean and renewable energy, health care, information technology and other high growth sectors
And in keeping our commitment to invest in the jobs of the future, the Department of Labor has awarded $440 million in the last three weeks, to cities across the country to spur economic recovery and begin the process towards energy independence and security.
The clean energy provisions of Recovery Act alone have already saved or created 63,000 jobs and are expected to create more than 700,000 by 2012.
When we talk about clean energy jobs, we mean new work for skilled workers who can install efficient heating and cooling systems and windows, who can retrofit homes to save electricity, who can build and install solar panels, wind turbines and other clean energy technologies.
This is work that is needed, and can start today in cities throughout the country.
I know that all of you understand this more than anyone.
Through the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, more than 1,000 mayors have committed to reduce carbon emissions at the local level.
I applaud you for your efforts.
These investments are positioning the American workforce to remain competitive and keep our nation at the forefront of a new low-carbon global economy.
At the same time, these initiatives are changing the way that we produce, distribute, and use energy to reduce green house gas emissions and cut our dependence on foreign oil.
Because of the Recovery Act's clean energy programs, demand is in some cases exceeding expectations with programs receiving far more qualified applicants than there is currently funding available.
That is why the President is calling for additional clean energy investments including home weatherization and advanced energy manufacturing tax credits which could put even more people to work right away.
But helping workers now is only part of our philosophy.
So to, we recognize that we must provide our youth with the tools they need to be successful in the 21st century economy.
Unemployment rates among young people are at record highs, above 27%.
And we know that this presents particular challenges in America's cities.
Local governments spend billions on programs to help America's young people, and the Department of Labor is partnering with local governments to provide opportunity for younger Americans.
At the Department of Labor, through the Recovery Act, we have made several key investments in our youth by:
- Investing more than $200 million in more than 40 shovel-ready construction projects to improve Job Corps facilities in several cities, which provide job training and education programs for economically disadvantaged youth;
- Funding an additional 75 YouthBuild projects to provide job training and educational opportunities for low-income or at-risk-out-of-school youth ages 16 to 24; and
- Provided funding for projects that employed over 300,000 summer youth, exceeding the goal of 250,000.
Many, if not all of you, participated in the Summer Youth Employment Program.
And I know that Mayors are the strongest supporters of summer youth employment programs.
Even without federal funding, many of you have been investing your own dollars to make sure young people had employment opportunities last summer.
Last year was the first time in over a decade that the federal government funded this program and partnered with local and state leaders to ensure its success.
Despite what some critics say, the Summer Youth Employment Program made work opportunities a reality for many young people by providing real world work experience, skills training and mentoring activities to allow young people to get started in the world of work.
This is critical because we all know that many disadvantaged youth live in cities and this program has impacted them in many ways.
For example, many participants chose to pursue a further educational and career-enhancing activity, which fulfills yet another goal set forth by the program.
We have heard back from a countless number of young people about their positive experiences and here is what we learned: these young people came from diverse backgrounds, some had dropped out of school and others lacked clear vision of their goals and how to obtain them.
Here are few stories I'd like to share.
- Youth placed in the Columbus Mayor's Office researched federal and state regulations and local ordinances and setting up community events; while youth placed in the Columbus public library system gained work experience and learned about all phases of how the library works.
- Young people in Cincinnati learned how to minimize the amount of building materials directed towards landfills by carefully taking apart (deconstructing) buildings/houses and recycling, reselling and reusing the materials.
- In Philadelphia, students learned about weatherization and were introduced to the principles for controlling building temperatures. They also explored possible recycling strategies by collecting and measuring waste to determine if recyclable materials increase effectiveness or efficiency.
- In Los Angeles, young people participated in the Mayor's Million Trees Initiative, a "Bicycle Kitchen" repairing and recycling hundreds of bicycles, and were placed in health care organizations where they gained real work experience.
- And in Denver, students were placed in local businesses and learned about what it takes to be a business-owner. This program taught them lessons in critical thinking, budgeting and credit-building.
In many of your cities, locals businesses played such an important and vital role and the Department of Labor is grateful for their participation.
We are also proud that most of these young people spent the wages they earned back in their own communities on items like college textbooks and helping pay family household bills.
As those of you with teenagers know, there's no better way to stimulate a local economy than by putting money in the pockets of young people.
The Summer Youth Employment was a successful economic stimulus program that not only helped deliver funds back into the economy, but increased the knowledge and job experience to young people, and gave them a sense of responsibility and self-pride.
And, most importantly, it's something that we want to continue.
This past year, we had some great success stories, and the one common thread through all of them was that the cities that provided the best programs and had the best outcomes had a thorough and well-thought out planning process that began long before the checks were in the mail.
We want these programs up and running in the early summer as school gets out.
And to be ready for the early summer, and to provide high quality programs, it takes a commitment early in the year at the municipal level.
I want to encourage each of you to check in with the people running your programs as soon as you get home to reiterate to them the importance of early planning.
I also want to remind all of you that the Department of Labor has other funding opportunities that target individuals that are re-entering our communities after incarceration.
And we continue to offer grants for community-based job training programs.
We still have work to do before we can be sure that all Americans have access to good jobs, but I am confident that we will reach that goal.
By working together with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and other stakeholders, we can turn our economy around and create pathways to success for all Americans.
Together, we can ensure... Good Jobs for Everyone.
I am grateful for your cooperation, your input, and your leadership.
I look forward to visiting your cities in the near future to learn how we can further partner with you, your business community and the citizens you represent.
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