U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis had a message for her Hispanic listeners and for the community at large: Train for the future.
Solis, the first Hispanic woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet, was on the campus of the University of Missouri–St. Louis on Wednesday as part of her tour of federal training sites around the country. She had made an appearance earlier at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley to announce a $15 million federal Trade Adjustment Assistance grant.
The grant, she said, was part of an effort to increase training and retraining opportunities for people hit hard by the current national recession.
“It helps people who have lost their jobs,” Solis said. “It focuses on people. It helps them gain new skills and sharpen their current skills.”
Speaking to an audience of business owners, civic leaders and government officials — many of whom were Hispanic — Solis said it was urgent that young people be made aware of training opportunities that could make them attractive to employers.
“We have to do a better job of explaining to the community the importance of training in science, technology, engineering and math,” she said. “Parents have the responsibility to stress the importance of education to their young people. The more skill sets you have, the more valuable you are.”
YouthBuild, Solis said, is a consortium of nonresidential training programs in the construction trades.
“Lives are being turned around,” she said. “Many people are being hired right out of the program by construction companies.”
Job Corps was created during the administration of President John F. Kennedy, Solis said.
“Its purpose was to give at-risk students a second chance,” she said. “It features dormitory living, structure and discipline. I’ve seen so many young men and women change their lives through this program.”
Solis said that President Barack Obama had committed $500 million to improve and expand job-training programs, and that with proper training, Americans — Latino and otherwise — could compete with workers anywhere.
“The best thing going for this country is the American worker and the sign ‘Made in America,’” she said.
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis and the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association sponsored Solis’ appearance at UMSL. Included in the audience of nearly 100 people in the Millennium Student Center were St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley and U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay.