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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
Community College to Career Bus Tour Kickoff
Columbus State Community College Roundtable
Columbus, Ohio

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Let me start by thanking our partners at Columbus State Community College for hosting us today. Dr. Biden and I have both seen the great promise of our community college system. She's a professor and I used to be an administrator. The first elected office I ever held was on the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees in California.

I know there's so much talent in our community college system. Community colleges are at the center of President Obama's strategy to help every American receive at least one year of post-secondary education.

The President's goal is for America to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 and to produce 5 million more community college graduates by then. Never in our nation's history has it been more important for workers to continue their education after high school.

This administration's proposed $8 billion Community College to Career Fund will help America's community colleges provide pathways to high-skilled jobs in high-growth industries. Under the President's plans, our community colleges will work with their industry partners to develop training programs that meet the needs of local job-creators.

It's not by accident that we chose Columbus State to kick off our three-day community college bus tour. America needs to see that this formula works, and the partnerships you've created here to put central Ohioans back to work can be a prototype for the nation.

We're proud that Columbus State has been a strong steward of federal dollars We've seen that the local labor force research you've done are helping workers obtain the skills they need to get job offers in industries that are hiring right now.

The fact that you've brought 16 local logistics companies to the table, and already found jobs for 76 percent of your 506 graduates in this area, is a powerful statement about your program's effectiveness. And I know you've also trained 150 incumbent workers for management positions. So you've hit on a model that works for our unemployed and for folks who want to move up the career ladder.

The stories I've already heard have inspired me. Stories like Spencer Garon, who went from the unemployment line to a $55,000 salary at Cincinnati Zoo. Or Roger Mahaffey, whose only prior work experience was babysitting, and now he's making 17 dollars an hour with full benefits in the IT field.

I know Columbus State recently received a DOL grant to expand your work into the information technology area. And I want to recognize your great planning for bringing together "chief information officers" from Tech Columbus. You did your homework and you listened. And when the CIOs told you that they had urgent workforce needs for business analysts and java developers, you took action.

I'm very interested to hear more about your plans to train dislocated workers to fill these types of high-skilled jobs. Because we know these jobs pay well, and our goal is to do more than put Ohio back to work. We want to help prepare Ohioans for fulfilling careers with benefits and salaries to raise a family on.

As Labor Secretary, I go all across the country telling the American people that the demand for skilled labor — especially in technology-related fields — is growing rapidly. Over the next decade, nearly half of all U.S. job openings 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, and they provide pathways to better-paying careers in every sector of the economy.

President Obama's community college plan will help prepare workers for jobs that are open today in industries that will still be hiring tomorrow. It will help young workers find that first job after high school, and it will help older workers start new careers if their factory shutters. Of course, some politicians believe that in this time of fiscal challenge, we cannot afford to invest in the American worker.

But they are short-sided and wrong. America's future will only be as strong as the industries we create and grow. And that means we must support our entrepreneurs, our workers and the institutions that train them. Places like Columbus State. So with that, I want to thank you again for hosting us, and I look forward to an informative panel today.

It's now my pleasure to introduce an incredible woman who has been a teacher for more than 30 years — including 18 as a community college professor. As a teacher of English at Northern Virginia Community College, Dr. Jill Biden has seen how schools like yours are changing lives. She has been hosting community college summits across the country and is an incredible spokeswoman for community colleges. Because she understands how they put an education financially within reach And she understands how they can help anyone who walks through that front door get the skills they need to realize the American Dream. Ladies and gentleman, it's my pleasure to introduce to you, Dr. Jill Biden.