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Remarks By Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, TAACCCT Round 3 Grants Announcement, Front Range Community College

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Location: Westminster, CO

Good morning everyone. It's great to be here. Thank you, President Dorsey, for hosting us on your campus today. Dr. McCallin, Lieutenant Governor Garcia, thank you so much for your great leadership. And I'm very pleased we have Peter Neidecker and Sheri Dron here, to give us a real-life, real-world sense of what investments in community colleges mean for employers and workers respectively.

I know it's been a trying few days for residents and communities in this part of Colorado, with the flood conditions that have led to so much loss, displacement and hardship. The Governor understandably couldn't join us, because he's focused on response to this natural disaster, but I'm glad the Lieutenant Governor could be here. President Obama has expressed his commitment to providing the federal support necessary to supplement state and local recovery efforts. The Labor Department stands ready to help in any way we can as soon as needs are fully assessed, specifically to help communities rebuild and to provide assistance to those who've lost their jobs as a result of the floods. And we're all keeping those individuals who've suffered the most in our thoughts and prayers.

I'm here today to share some very exciting news that will help Front Range Community College -- and community colleges around the country -- do more to prepare workers for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Skills development is one of the pillars of President Obama's strategy to grow the economy not from the top down, but the middle out. We know we have the best workers in the world, but they need us to invest in their ability to compete now and in the future. Helping people acquire new skills and access new training programs allows them to climb ladders of opportunity to secure a foothold in the middle class. Building human capital in this way is one key way to accelerate the recovery and unleash the economy's full potential.

The TAACCCT program -- that's an acronym for Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training -- is one of the Labor Department's most powerful tools for building a sturdy skills infrastructure. Over the last two years through TAACCCT, we have invested an even 1 billion dollars in community colleges nationwide, with grants that build the institutions' capacity to serve the American workforce, allowing them to expand innovative training programs in partnership with local employers, the workforce system and other community groups. TAACCCT is targeted in particular to help those workers who have lost jobs as a result of foreign trade.

Today, I'm pleased to announce the third round of TAACCCT awards worth a total $474.5 million, including nearly $25 million for a Colorado statewide consortium led by Front Range Community College to develop a pipeline of highly qualified workers in advanced manufacturing. In all, Round 3 of TAACCCT includes a total of 57 grants that will support 190 projects in at least 183 schools in every state plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

It was five years ago this week that the financial crisis rocked Wall Street and sent our economy into a tailspin. Hard-working middle-class Americas lost their jobs, their homes and their retirement savings.

It's been a long road back, and it's not over yet. But thanks to President Obama's leadership and more importantly the resilience of the American people, we have begun to turn the corner. For a while there, we were hemorrhaging jobs to the tune of 800,000 a month. Now, over the last three and a half years, the private sector has added 7.5 million new jobs. The auto industry, which was flat on its back, is now on the rebound.

As the President says, we've cleared away the rubble from the financial crisis and we've begun to lay a new foundation for economic growth and prosperity. But we're not yet where we need to be. We need more rapid growth, more middle-class jobs, more pathways to success for more people, more ladders of opportunity with strong rungs.

To complete this recovery, we need to act with the same urgency and sense of common purpose that we felt five years ago. That's why the president is calling for investments in manufacturing centers of innovation. That's why he wants to upgrade American infrastructure, because you can't have a growing economy without sturdy roads, bridges and ports. And that's why he wants to fortify our skills infrastructure, so that our people have the tools they need to succeed in 21st century jobs, so that we can help people who've seen their jobs go overseas and their old skills rendered obsolete.

That's where TAACCCT comes in. It's an essential building block of that skills infrastructure. This is a major, unprecedented investment in our community college system…and by extension in our people's ability to find solid work that can raise a family.

We're being smart and strategic about where we invest this money. This year's funding for community college consortia is going only to the top 20 applications we received. It is going where it can do the most for American workers and businesses. The grants will expand programs in growing industries like advanced manufacturing, transportation and health care, encouraging schools to work together within their states, across state lines and within growing industrial sectors.

And we're being smart and strategic about how the money is spent. Partnership is the key to the program's success. In fact, it's a prerequisite for consideration for a TAACCCT award. This is about education, labor, business and community leaders coming together to meet the real-world challenges of a complex global economy. The collaboration with employers is especially important. The idea is to ensure that community college curricula are aligned with industry's needs, so adult learners are obtaining exactly the certifications and know-how that local businesses require their workers to have.

This kind of demand-driven system is a win-win. It strengthens the workforce, giving our people marketable skills that lead to good, middle-class jobs. And it strengthens the overall economy, providing businesses the talented workers they need to compete, prosper and grow. The TAACCCT program is a perfect example of workforce investment done the right way -- varied stakeholders coming together around pragmatic strategies designed to serve the mutual interests of all parties.

The Colorado consortium led by Front Range is called CHAMP -- that's Colorado Helps Advanced Manufacturing Program. It includes eight other community colleges around the state and brings together 28 employer partners in a multifaceted effort to develop or enhance credentials in basic machining, shield metal arc welding, 3D printing/additive manufacturing and a lot more. CHAMP is also using work-based learning strategies that we know work, like on-the-job training and registered apprenticeship programs.

In its first two years, TAACCCT has fostered much innovation and already fundamentally changed the way many colleges are delivering courses to adult workers. But, building on what we've learned, we've sought to further improve the program with even more exacting standards on a number of fronts. So in Round 3, we've set important pre-conditions for getting these grants. Applicants have to show that they are using strategies that we know work.

Some conditions are as simple and common sense as requiring schools to engage those employers who are actually hiring. Some challenge schools to find better ways to measure the success of their programs. By helping community colleges better track employment and earnings data of students who graduate from these programs, we can get a better sense of what works, and whether they are spending public dollars as effectively as possible.

Another hallmark of Round 3 is the integration of technology. This year's winners are using online resources to accelerate learning and make programs more accessible at lower costs. For example, a consortium led by Midlands Technical College in South Carolina is using a strong on-line component to bring training to hard-to-reach rural workers and to reduce the time it takes to finish the program. Also, to ensure that best practices are widely shared, all educational resources developed through TAACCCT 3 grants will be available through a creative commons license for other colleges to use freely.

All in all, this is an extraordinary investment in the talents and the aspirations of our people. TAACCCT may have a long name and a bit of a clumsy acronym, but make no mistake about it: these grants change lives. It gives people access to state-of-the-art curricula and education programs that catapults them into middle-class jobs.

Last week, I visited Anne Arundel Community College in my home state of Maryland, which was a TAACCCT winner two years ago. I met real people who are using these programs as a springboard to a better life. I met employers ready to hire people who obtain the credential, and they are confident in the relevance of the credential because they helped design it.

This is about people. People like Sheri Dron, who you'll hear from in a minute, who got a scholarship to enroll in a program in precision machining at this school and has a paid internship at a local company. It's about people like Brooke Ritter, who was laid off from a call center but now has completed two semesters at Red Rocks Community College's Water Quality Management Program, which benefitted from TAACCCT funding. "It is sure to give me a job for life," Brooke says.

Helping people by creating and expanding opportunity -- that's what the U.S. Department of Labor does, and that is what the TAAACCCT program does. I'm proud to announce these grants today. And I believe they will make a profound difference in people's lives, helping them to reach their highest and best dreams. Thank you very much.


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