Solis touts green jobs for women

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis made the case Thursday that women without jobs during the economic recession could benefit from money in the $787 billion stimulus package.

Speaking before a breakfast hosted by Women’s Policy Inc. on Capitol Hill, Solis said women can fill green jobs in the emerging renewable-energy field, particularly those trained as engineers with backgrounds in manufacturing and science.

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“We are trying to let people know we are open for business,” Solis said.

With about $500 million in the recovery effort slated for the Labor Department for training in green jobs, promoting alternative energy is a major initiative for reworking the economy and energy policy by the Obama administration. Solis has emerged as one of its biggest proponents.

The issue of green jobs is not new to Solis. As a House member from California, she touted them as a way for people to better their economic situation while also improving the environment — and she did so long before “green jobs” became a Washington buzzword. Solis authored a bill to authorize $125 million for green jobs training, which was added to broader energy legislation and passed into law in December 2007.

Solis was speaking in front of several of her former colleagues from the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. Lawmakers like Reps. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) attended the event. The lawmakers — many of them close friends from her Capitol Hill days — praised her during a Q&A session before asking how stimulus funds could benefit women as much as men.

Solis said women had been “hard, hard-pressed” by the recession but options were out there to find jobs, whether they were in healthcare or information technology. Working in government is another possibility and Solis said the Labor Department expects to hire about 1,000 employees as part of efforts to increase regulation and tougher enforcement of worker safety.

“We are looking for a few good women, by the way,” Solis said to laughs.

In addition, the Labor secretary said women must expand their horizons in order to improve their career opportunities.

“I want to see more women in math and science. We need to encourage more women to get into those technical fields,” Solis said.

Back on green jobs, Solis recalled visiting a recently opened lithium battery factory in Michigan with Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), and cited it as an example of how America needs to get back on the track.

Responsible for close to 100 new jobs, the factory will begin producing batteries that were typically imported from South Korea, Solis said.

“We should train people to produce those products here,” Solis said.