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DVOP/LVER Conference - Speech

Chick Ciccolella
South Carolina DVOP/LVER Conference
September 5, 2001

Good morning everyone. Thank you Bill for that generous introduction.

Bill Plowden is a tough act to follow, even when he only speaks for a couple of minutes.

I want to thank you for inviting me to your annual training conference. This is my first public speaking appearance as deputy assistant secretary for VETS and I can't think of a more appropriate place for it to happen.

First, South Carolina is a state that has always appreciated and honored its veterans. It has a proud military tradition that dates from 1670 when the colonial militia was formed to protect the colony from raiders from Spanish Florida.

Secondly, if VETS can be said to have a birthplace, it's here in South Carolina.

Strom Thurmond was the moving force behind the legislation that created VETS almost 20 years ago.

And Bill Plowden served as the first assistant secretary so I guess that makes him VETS' Godfather.

These two gentlemen have always set high standards for services to veterans. Fred Juarbe and I will do our best to live up to them.

I'm glad the bar of expectations is high because America's veterans deserve nothing less than the best.

And I can tell you that Labor Secretary Elaine Chao thinks the same way.

I was with her last week at The American Legion Conference where she said it's also the work of the Department of Labor to support America's military personnel, their families, and their future.

She called VETS her eyes and ears to 15 million working veterans.

When she said that, she was referring to you, the DVOPS and LVERS who work with veterans everyday.

Without you, there would be no VETS. Without you, America's veterans would not get the priority services throughout the public labor exchange system that they have earned.

You, and thousands of dedicated men and women just like you throughout the nation, are the lifeblood of our programs to veterans.

Fred and I, with the help of state directors like Bill Plowden, have the responsibility to make you the best veterans employment representatives that you can be.

Our mission is to give you the best tools, the most up-to-date training, and the strongest support in Washington.

Now, I've only been on the job for a few months, but before that I was a Congressional staffer. So I have heard all the stories about VETS.

I know we've come in for more than our share of criticism; some of it justified, some of it not.

I don't want to dwell on the past; I want to marshal all our resources for the future.

And we have recently developed some quality resources that will help you do your jobs better.

We have an Internet web site called UMET that has a lot of important information about civilian certification and licensing requirements and how service members can use their military experience to get these certifications without having to undergo costly and repetitive training.

We have another web site - FCAIS - that has up to date information about Federal contractors in your area. You can use it as a job development tool.

And there's a new core training course at NVTI that covers topics that didn't even exist in the 1980's.

VETS also has a legislative responsibility to help the states fulfill their mandates for providing employment services to veterans.

To help us do a better job in this area, we have developed new performance standards for the states.

We needed them. Congress expected them.

The new veterans' performance measures are designed to capture the number of veterans obtaining jobs through the services of the Public Labor Exchange and how long they retain those jobs.

We believe that the new outcome based measures are a significant improvement over the process driven measures that were in place for more than a decade. The new measures focus on what the programs achieve rather than on the number of services they provide.

In the past, the use of relative standards has enabled states with poor Public Labor Exchange service levels to achieve satisfactory performance in veteran services.

The new performance measures level the playing field and improve the way that VETS establishes the performance levels that states are expected to achieve.

VETS intends to seek continuous improvement from those states that fail to achieve satisfactory performance.

Secretary Chao is committed to strong program performance and accountability across all Labor Department programs and we are going to make sure that VETS lives up to those expectations.

I have heard some people say this is a tough time to be in VETS. I think it's a great time to be in VETS; otherwise I wouldn't have taken the job.

We have the opportunity to re engineer our programs, to upgrade our services, and reinvigorate our partners.

A couple of weeks ago, Secretary Chao met with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. That's something that never happened before.

They agreed that a new unified effort is essential in helping military families reach their full potential.

One of the topics of conversation was making the Department of Labor's services available to spouses of active duty military personnel.

Secretary Chao wouldn't have pursued this initiative if she didn't have the utmost confidence in your ability to carry out these increased responsibilities.

In the past decade, the world of work and the way people find jobs have changed dramatically.

Technology and the power of the Internet have greatly increased the ability of computer-literate people to access a vast amount of information on government programs and services.

The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) has dramatically altered the context within which workforce development services are delivered, including those services targeted to veterans.

Our challenge is to deliver those services with a maximum of flexibility while not sacrificing one ounce of quality.

The Department of Labor is committed to improving the lives of America's veterans as never before.

For all that you have done, and for all that you will do, I want to thank each and every one of you for your help in making this possible.

Thank you.