Carrying out President Obama’s agenda of secure employment, decent pay for all

Everyone has an opinion on how to fix the economy and stimulate job creation. As secretary of Labor, I have outlined a vision for creating good jobs for everyone. Good jobs means safe jobs, secure jobs, with good benefits and livable wages.

I am marshalling the resources that flow through the department’s programs, including Recovery Act funding, and supporting President Obama’s job creation agenda in four key areas:

1. Build a green economy

As a nation built on innovation and technology, I know that we can achieve the goals of becoming energy-independent and reducing our global warming emissions. But the strength of our nation’s economy depends on the availability of a highly skilled and well-trained workforce. As the co-author of the Green Jobs Act in 2007, I have been a longtime advocate of building a green economy and offering pathways out of poverty and into good jobs. Now as Labor secretary, it is my charge to ensure that we are providing the resources that will train American workers for the 21st-century green-collar jobs.

Thanks to the investments in the Recovery Act to green our economy, the Department of Labor now has several roles including defining and developing labor market information on green jobs by industry and occupation; supporting the public workforce system by directing the nearly $4 billion investment in employment and training to the green jobs being created by investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency; and making grants in the amount of $5 million to support innovative workforce strategies to train and place workers in green jobs.

2. Develop a skilled and competitive workforce and help America’s workers gain access to education and career pathways

The public workforce investment system has a key role to play on all levels of government to ensure workers have the skills necessary to compete and succeed in an economy that increasingly demands high skills. The system also must provide businesses access to the skilled workforce they need to compete and grow. The Department of Labor routinely works with a wide array of strategic partners, including local and state governments, business and industry, organized labor, education at all levels, community-based organizations, and others, in order to enhance understanding of state and regional labor markets and to tailor workforce strategies to help workers make sound career decisions and tap into education and career pathways.

3. Help communities and regions recover and rebuild their economies

The Department of Labor is making strategic investments for a collaborative approach to both planning and executing the strategies that will rebuild economies hardest hit by the current crisis. For example, this includes helping states and regions that relied heavily on the financial or the auto industries. It is critical that these partnerships have a strong workforce component, and the department is using its discretionary funds to enable regional partnerships to address the workforce preparation strategies that are critical to successful outcomes.

4. Work collaboratively with federal partners at Education, Commerce, Small Business, and Energy, to leverage resources in support of job creation and economic growth and recovery

Supporting collaboration at the state and regional levels requires strong collaboration among federal agencies as well. In order to maximize the Recovery Act investments and spur economic recovery, there is a critical need for federal agencies to help states and communities “connect the dots.” For example, I have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, to actively support connecting the workforce investment system to community action agencies implementing weatherization strategies under the Recovery Act. Weatherization funding is creating jobs, and the workforce system creates access to unemployed workers who need training and jobs, so the partnership is one that both agencies should promote and nurture.

The same need exists for the Department of Labor to partner with the Departments of Energy, Transportation, Health and Human Services, and other agencies. In this way, the Labor Department can be a catalyst for creating the jobs of the future. Helping states and regions map and leverage funds will speed job creation and get workers into those jobs, earning a paycheck, paying their mortgages, and contributing to the economy. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are off to a good start.

Solis is the Secretary of Labor.