Labor Secretary Alexis Herman Pledges Support for Summer Jobs
By Joan Crigger
In her response to concerns from Conference President Denver Mayor Wellington Webb about supporting the summer jobs program, Labor Secretary Alexis Herman told mayors that she would continue to provide the necessary support for summer jobs within the Workforce Investment Act, during the 68th Winter Meeting on January 27. The Secretary said the intention was never to reduce the numbers of jobs, but only to make sure that the young people working in those jobs received quality, comprehensive services so that their initial experience was positive.
In her remarks to the mayors, Herman congratulated Mayor Webb on his New Agenda for American Cities and for the USCM report Seizing Economic Opportunities in the New Millennium.
Herman applauded the partnership between the President, his administration, mayors, and the private sector which has provided the engine for the current robust economy and low unemployment and the creation of twenty million new jobs since 1993. But, Herman said, we must make sure that the we leave no one behind in this economic boom, particularly in light of the changing workforce.
The Secretary then showed
maps that reflect the difference between unemployment in 1993 and
today. In 1993, over half of the states had unemployment of six
percent or more, while only two states had unemployment under three
percent. Today, only two states have unemployment over six percent.
Herman also highlighted a new map that illustrates cities and counties
with unemployment over 10 percent and those cities with unemployment
at one and two percent and the need to focus not just on skill
shortages but also to differentiate between skill shortages and worker
shortages. “We don’t have a worker shortage in this country but a
skill shortage. What we must do is make the necessary skill investment
in all of our citizens so that they can take advantage of these more
The Secretary then announced that she would convene a skills summit in early April to deal directly with the skills shortages. (The Conference will publish the date as soon as it is set.) The summit would bring together leaders of business, labor, government and the academic world, along with workers themselves, to examine the problem of skills shortages and to build on the skill shortages strategies that many of our cities our utilizing today. Herman indicated they would look at cities like Chicago, Louisville, New Orleans and the District of Columbia, who are building on regional strategies, and highlight best practices, so that mayors and others will have practical tools to assist in dealing with these shortages.
In addition to the summit, the Secretary stated that she wanted to continue to work with mayors and focus on those still in need, and to have a concentrated effort to bring them into the economic mainstream. Herman then thanked the mayors for working with her to get Congress to fund the Youth Opportunity movement, which serves out-of-school youth and which now totals $500 million dollars. “ I am looking forward to next month when I will announce 25 to 30 additional cities who will receive Youth Opportunity grants.” The Secretary closed by stating that the work we do with young people is so important and so critical, especially in this knowledge based economy.
The Secretary generously agreed to respond to questions. Hemit (CA) Mayor Lori Van Arsdale asked about older workers and their need for training. Herman indicated that currently, the older worker program is designed to train seniors. In addition, there are new demonstration programs to engage older workers in technology jobs. Responding to a question from Charleston (WV) Mayor Jay Goldman regarding lost industry, Secretary Herman invited Mayor Goldman to participate in the April summit. When Denton, TX Mayor Jack Miller asked the Secretary what mayors should do to help get extra funding for summer jobs, she said it was crucial for mayors to continue to elevate the point and to make it clear that while the program is still in transition, we want quality, and we want to keep the numbers up. She said mayors must elevate the need for additional funds.