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

Remarks for Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
White House Community College Summit Closing Remarks
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Good Afternoon.

I want to start by thanking our President and Dr. Jill Biden for convening this important White House Community College Summit today.

I would also like to thank Melinda Gates and Penny Pritzker for their leadership and investment in our nation's education and training programs.

I am a big believer in community colleges and the role they play in higher education and job training.

My first elected office was as a member of the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees, in California.

I saw first-hand the opportunities that community colleges provided to the students and community they serve.

As Dr. Biden mentioned earlier, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 amended the Trade Adjustment Assistance program to establish a Community College and Career Training initiative.

And the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act signed by President Barack Obama included $2 billion over four years to fund this initiative.

I am proud that the Department of Labor will be housing this program, which complements President Obama's broader agenda of every American have at least one year of post-secondary education, and will help reach his goal of America having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

Over the next year, the Labor Department will award approximately $500 million through this grant program.

By statute, the program is designed to ensure that every state will receive at least $2.5 million in grant awards.

The focus of this program is continuous improvement that will help institutions develop and routinely strengthen identified program areas to better educate and train learners and get them back to work.

It is also designed to meet industry needs while also accelerating learning, improving retention and achievement rates.

We anticipate opening the competition for these grant funds sometime this fall.

We encourage both individual colleges and consortia of colleges to apply.

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of leading a spirited conversation on how industry and private businesses can tap into the community college systems across our country.

At the same time, we all know that it is vitally important that community colleges are providing the relevant training that industries need and are looking for.

Community colleges ensure that individuals obtain the credentials they will need for good, secure, safe jobs.

And it is just as critical that employers who understand the needs and the skills desired in their specific industries are working with community college faculty to develop relevant curriculum and coursework.

Today was an important step to ensure that this type of collaboration will continue to happen between community colleges and employers across the country.

I know that in our short time together today, we covered a lot of ground.

And the insights shared by stakeholders from business, community college, organized labor, and registered apprenticeship communities will be essential in helping to develop programs moving forward.

I heard several strong examples about employers working with organized labor and community colleges that are making a difference in workers lives and helping employers stay competitive.

I want to take a moment to share a similar story about one of the programs we funded at the Labor Department through the Recovery Act.

The DeKalb Technical College in Georgia works closely with area employers who not only take an active role in developing coursework, but serve in instructor roles, as well as provide students with crucial on-the-job training at their businesses.

As a result, this program has a high placement rate with helping unemployed, dislocated and incumbent workers train for an industry recognized licensing certification as an Emergency Medical Technician.

Not only is this type of partnership important for employers and community colleges, it what this nation's workers and economy needs as we continue to recover from our recent economic recession.

Before we part, I would like to highlight several tools available at my department that I hope you will share with your colleagues and networks once you get back home.

Last month, we launched the website.

This new website has amazing resources to help workers find employment as well as job training opportunities based on their employment history and the skills they've gained through past job experience.

Users are also able to find training programs in their area where they can upgrade or retrain for a different job.

And of importance to this Summit, this website includes easily accessible details on occupational licenses, certifications, and apprenticeship programs from any selected occupation.

For those of you who prefer using the telephone—we also have a toll-free helpline for information about jobs, career training and career resources.

The number is 1-877-US2-JOBS (1-877-872-5627).

Thank you once again for being part of today's summit and I look forward to working with you to fulfill my vision of "Good and Safe Jobs for Everyone."