|WIB Director Gregg Irish Talks Jobs, Training at Secretary of Labor's State of the Union|
"Middle class jobs are the backbone of this country," said U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis as she welcomed a panel of speakers to her State of the Union on Thursday, January 26, 2012.
The State of the Union, which took place at East Los Angeles Community College (ELAC), featured a panel of speakers from labor-related areas of local government: Gregg Irish, Executive Director of the City of Los Angeles Workforce Investment Board (WIB), sat alongside Sophia Esparza, Director of the Chicana Service Action Center (CSAC), Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Councilmember, Felicito Cajayon, WIB Member and Vice Chancellor of Workforce Development for the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), Dolores Huerta, labor leader and civil rights activist, and James Garcia, ELAC Associated Student Union President.
While Secretary Solis discussed several areas of economic development, she allowed panelists to delve into the specifics of three areas of local importance: education, trade, and workforce investment. In cities like Los Angeles, where the unemployment rate has recently dipped to a still-worrisome 11%, domestic job creation remains high on the agenda.
"I believe -- as does the President -- that people like to buy products that are made In the U.S.A," Secretary Solis announced to a resounding applause.
Secretary Solis added that the White House's support of domestically-produced goods would depend on the revitalization of small businesses in cities throughout the U.S. The announcement comes at an apropos time for the City of Los Angeles, whose Mayor recently announced the re-opening of six BusinessSource centers.
Irish highlighted the importance of Los Angeles as a center of manufacturing, construction, hospitality, and entertainment.
"As the creative capital of America," Irish stated, "our economy is powered by small business."
Irish and Secretary Solis emphasized the importance of the President's plan to fund research grants in the technology, energy, and health industries. Los Angeles, a formidable but lesser-known hub of U.S. manufacturing, is home to two large biotechnology centers: Grifols Biologicals and Baxter. The city also boasts the highest number of minority and women-owned businesses in the nation.
Secretary Solis, who opened up the discussion about workforce development to members of the audience, invited El Proyecto del Barrio WorkSource Center CEO, Corinne Sanchez, to speak.
Sanchez said that the city "cannot meet the needs of employers without workforce investment. WorkSource Centers provide services that elevate an individual's skill levels so that he or she is qualified for gainful employment."
The non-profit El Proyecto del Barrio was founded in 1971 to provide health and human services to economically disadvantaged families and individuals in the San Fernando Valley. Over the last four decades, the organization has expanded its provision of services to East Los Angeles and Azusa.
Panelists also discussed the importance of ensuring that veterans returning home from wars overseas are provided with adequate training so that they can successfully re-enter the workforce. The Veterans Gold Card Initiative, announced earlier this year by President Obama, pleges to give veterans who visit WorkSource Centers priority of service for workforce programs funded by the Department of Labor.
“Our WorkSource Centers are training folks for the jobs that are becoming available as this recession ends,” said Irish. “As a city and as a nation, we have a responsibility to provide funding for job training, and to reward companies that create jobs here at home.”
By Erin Brodwin, WIB Staff