Secretary Elaine Chao


Workforce Innovation 2002 Conference

Thank you Emily for that nice introduction. It’s great to have Emily DeRocco as part of my leadership team at the Department of Labor. She is an outstanding workforce professional and an articulate, passionate advocate for you in Washington.

I want to thank Mike Magill, the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, for that warm welcome to the great state of Tennessee. And I also want to recognize Bill Sanders and the ETA team for the hard work and creative thinking they put into this conference.

As you will see when you visit the exhibits and attend the plenary sessions, this is NOT your average government conference.

We have tried to create an exciting and memorable conference experience for you. We’re here to imagine, to inspire and to motivate you to become major players in the workplace of tomorrow.

The Exhibit Hall features demonstrations of more than 100 technologies to super-charge your productivity and boost your outreach. And we’ve recruited national business leaders to talk to you candidly about their workforce needs.

But for me the most moving and inspirational aspects of this conference are the success stories from One Stops around the country. These are your stories. The stories of the people you have helped.

These stories remind us why we’re here. It can be summed up in one word: jobs.

Not just any job, but a good job.

Not just one job, but a career path to steady employment in the 21st century workforce.

Our mission is to help people go beyond dreaming of a better life to actually living a better life.

You are an integral part of the compassionate agenda that forms the centerpiece of President George W. Bush’s administration.

And speaking of Missions… I have a surprise for you this morning.

As we were thinking about ways to demonstrate tomorrow’s workplace, we encountered a very special group of people. For most of our lifetimes, their jobs existed only in the realm of science fiction. They wanted to share a special greeting with you this morning, to help get us off to a memorable start.

Let’s listen!

[Video taped greeting from the crew of Expedition 5, the International Space Station is played.]

Wow! Doesn’t that make you feel a little like you’re on “Star Trek,” listening to a message on the bridge of the Enterprise!

Thank you crew members of Expedition 5—the international space station.

They wanted to join us today because they know how important it is to prepare for the future.

Flight Engineer Whitson mentioned geospatial technologies for a good reason. This new technology—that takes detailed photographs of the earth from orbiting satellites—has created an industry that has seen tremendous growth in the past five years.
NASA and Keyhole Corporation have teamed up to give us a preview of this amazing technology. Since my entire ETA leadership team is here with you in Nashville, let’s see what our colleagues are up to back home.

[Video of Frances Perkins Building, Department of Labor, Washington, D.C. shot from orbiting satellites.]

As many of you have already recognized, those were pictures of the Frances Perkins Building shot from an orbiting satellite. It’s a demonstration of space-age technology with many down-to-earth applications.

In fact, analysts expect geospatial technology to grow into a $21 billion industry over the next few years. It will need workers at every level—from mechanics and field technicians to engineers. It’s an example of the new industries springing up everyday. A decade ago, no one ever heard of the Internet. In 2002 it’s difficult to find a workplace that isn’t hooked up to it. It’s something for all of us to think about as we plan for the future.

Every day dislocated workers come into One Stops all around the country looking for help.

Your immediate task is to guide each one of them to training or employment.

You are doing a great job—particularly in the aftermath of the events of 9/11. Many of you performed heroic service to help those devastated economically by the attacks.

As the storyboards in the exhibit hall prove, you are making a difference—a real, positive difference in many people’s lives.

But there’s so much more we could do to enhance the great work you are doing.

We need to strengthen our ability to serve America’s workers by reaching out to employers to find out where the new jobs are. We need to identify what skills are in demand. Then we need to set up programs to help workers acquire those needed skills.
The goal is for One Stops to become an integrated, community-based job referral system for workers, employers and educators.

We want to give you the tools to get ahead of the human resource “curve,” so you’re not always in a reactive mode. We’d like you to become employment opportunity scouts—connecting with business directly to find jobs for workers before they walk in your door.
Many of you are already doing that.

It was a local One Stop Career Center that helped the community of Magic Valley, Idaho bring Dell Computer’s technical support center to their region. One Stop officials offered the company a package of services, including customized recruitment. The result was 300 new technical support jobs in Magic Valley with the promise of 100 more in the future. That’s what I call “reaching out!”

The same thing happened in Kentucky—a state with which I am very familiar, as many of you know. The local One Stop Center worked with the community of Hazard, Kentucky to persuade American Woodmark Corporation to build its new plant in their area. The result: the 3rd largest cabinet manufacturer in the United States will hire 230 Eastern Kentucky workers.

Not far from my own office, in downtown Washington, D.C., is another example of a proactive program that produced jobs for workers. CVS is the nation’s largest drug store chain. It set up a complete pharmacy, a camera department and a greeting cards store in the back of a local D.C. One Stop. So far, CVS has hired 1,000 employees trained in this facility. It’s been such a success that similar facilities are being set up in Baltimore, New York City and Detroit.

We want to encourage this kind of innovation nationally.

We’d like to see workforce agencies around the country reach out and forge their own collaborative relationships with employers, associations and educational institutions.

But we realize that you may need some help to make this vision a reality.

You need more than e-learning tools and the latest technology. You need Washington to enact sensible program regulations that promote creativity and flexibility.

We have a great opportunity coming up next year with reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. Reauthorization gives us a platform to identify barriers to success and fix what doesn’t work.

I’d like to share with you four of the key principles that will guide us as we work with Congress to make this program even better.

First, we’ll be looking at ways to make the One Stop system work more closely with employers. That’s because employers tap our trainees and referred job seekers. One of the disheartening facts about our great workforce investment system is that the overwhelming majority of employers have never heard of us.

That has got to change if we want to be players in the 21st century workplace.

The success stories I’ve outlined above were made possible because local One Stops dedicated staff to the task of reaching out to employers. Dedicated staff means a steady stream of crucial information to help you match workers with relevant training and jobs. Funding and staffing employer outreach is key to achieving our mission: jobs for American workers.

Second, we want to simplify the cumbersome governance structure. I want to empower the system to use workforce investment resources as an economic development tool. We want to ensure that the workforce investment system focuses on its key mission: putting people to work.

Third, we’d like to improve program performance by improving how we measure program performance. We’d like to establish system-wide measures that are concise, results-oriented and easy to understand and administer.

And fourth, we want to encourage more collaborative programs with local community colleges like the one I’ve announced. We’re well aware that current WIA reporting requirements are so burdensome that many community colleges opt out. The requirement that community colleges must report outcomes for all students—not just their WIA students—is a good example. It is unrealistic and serves no program goal.

These are just a few of the principles that will guide us as we work our way through WIA reauthorization. We’d like to hear from you and get your input as well.

That’s because you—the workforce professionals of the One Stop system and the service providers who assist you—are our greatest asset.

You are the institutional strength of this system. Our goal is to empower you to think and act in creative new ways so we can better serve America’s workers and the businesses that employ them.

An agile workforce, prepared for the challenges of the 21st century workplace, is the key to keeping America competitive and strong.

Change will always be with us. It’s a fact of life. Helping employees manage change is crucial to keeping the One Stop System relevant in tomorrow’s workplace.

I started out this morning with space age analogies, but the bottom line to this conference is something much more down to earth.

The One Stop system has a great story to tell. It’s a story of compassion and service. All we have to do is tell it.

As management guru Peter Drucker has said, “Quality in a product or service is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.”

We can’t help place people in jobs if employers don’t know we exist!

Workers need to know we’re there for them not just in an emergency—but as 21st century job counselors.

Employers need to know that One Stop Career Centers have human resource specialists—a powerful tool to help them find workers with critical skills.

And educational institutions need to know we’re a trusted partner who understands the importance of lifelong learning.

With your help, we can transform the workforce training system into a critical tool for building the 21st century workforce.

Together we can ensure that our country, whose independence we celebrated last week, remains economically vibrant and secure.

The foundation of our nation’s global economic security begins with each worker we help and each alliance we forge at the community level.

Thank you for being here today. And thank you for everything you are doing to keep our country strong and prosperous.