November 15, 2002 - Department of Labor: Elaine Chao was able to send the first Peace Corps volunteers to the former captive nation states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and to the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Latvia: Peace Corps Latvia : The Peace Corps in Latvia: November 15, 2002 - Department of Labor: Elaine Chao was able to send the first Peace Corps volunteers to the former captive nation states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and to the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.

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Elaine Chao was able to send the first Peace Corps volunteers to the former captive nation states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and to the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.

Elaine Chao was able to send the first Peace Corps volunteers to the former captive nation states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and to the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.

Remarks as Delivered by
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao
“Working Together to Build the 21st Century Workforce”
George Bush Presidential Library Foundation
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas
November 15, 2002

What a thrill it is to be introduced by a President of the United States! Thank you so much, President Bush, for that generous introduction.

And, what a joy it is to be here to speak today as part of this series on volunteerism. Knowing what a great advocate of volunteerism President George Bush is, I can’t think of a better place to hold this discussion than the George Bush Presidential Library Center.

I also want to recognize the other dignitaries who are with us today—beginning, of course, with First Lady Barbara Bush, who made literacy her signature issue and empowered millions toward the path of self-sufficiency. I’d also like to thank the President of Texas A&M University, Dr. Bob Gates, for hosting this event, as well as the Bank of America, the organization that endowed this important series on volunteerism.

It is a great privilege for me to serve in the administration of the current President, President George W. Bush. President George W. Bush is providing outstanding leadership for our country. He believes deeply that America is a force for good in the world. He’s focused on national security and defeating the war on terrorism. He’s also focused on economic security at home for all Americans.

I believe the current President Bush has a lot in common with his father: his strong leadership, his compassion, and his clear sense of what is right for our country.

I also had the privilege of serving in the administration of President George Bush, Bush “41”. President George Bush “41” appointed me as the Director of the Peace Corps during a historic period in world history. For those of us who recall the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, followed by the collapse of the entire Soviet Union empire on December 21, 1991—it was an exciting and tumultuous time.

President Bush “41” had a vision for world security and peace in this new world order. He knew that the Western world needed to come to the assistance of the former republics of the Soviet Union to ensure that freedom and democracy would prevail.

Under the President’s visionary leadership, I was able to send the first Peace Corps volunteers to the former captive nation states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and to the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. In fact, that’s where I first met the Foundation’s Executive Director, Dr. Roman Popadiuk, who was then serving as U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine.

In that period, I saw firsthand the transforming power of free enterprise and private sector volunteerism in societies that had labored for years under an oppressive tyranny in which the government was responsible for everything and ignored the worth of the individual.

The Peace Corps volunteers who served in the former republics of the Soviet empire were among those who helped these newly independent states to construct a new world where freedom and democracy triumphed.

Then, as President and CEO of the United Way of America—one of the oldest and most respected volunteer organizations in America—I saw firsthand once again the unique spirit of volunteerism that characterized who Americans are as a charitable and generous people.

I took over the helm of the United Way of America at a time when the organization was suffering a loss of public confidence because of scandal and financial mismanagement.

My experiences at the United Way reinforced what I had seen in the past. Helping others come naturally to Americans. We are a nation of volunteers. Over 90 million Americans give over four hours a week to volunteer activities. Americans give about 2% of their annual income to charities, the highest in the world.

Historically, we have never depended on the ability of government to solve all our problems. We have taken it upon ourselves to work together for the common good. Alexis de Tocqueville, traveling across America in the 1830s, noticed this and was amazed. “Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all types of dispositions are forever forming associations,” he said.

The idea that one person can make a difference is a universal concept. But Americans have made it into a way of life and the basis for a civil society. Sadly, there are too many places in the world today where civil society is not possible, because there is no room outside of government for the formation of free institutions.

My love for volunteerism arose partly out of my own experience as an immigrant to this country. That time in my life helped me realize, in a very personal way, the great value of giving and sharing with your neighbors.

As some of you may know, I immigrated to this country when I was eight years old. When my family arrived here from Asia, we did not speak English and were unfamiliar with American customs. The kindness, the helping hands of our friends and neighbors were invaluable as we transitioned to this wonderful new country.

Later on, I saw that service to our neighbors and communities is the way we bring the ideals of freedom to life everyday, one person at a time, one heart at a time.

The horrific attacks on our country of September 11th reminded us of the value of our freedom and our ties to one another as Americans. It also opened Americans’ hearts to a renewed spirit of service in America, one that asks: What can I do?

It’s that spirit that inspired President George W. Bush to create the USA Freedom Corps to provide volunteer opportunities for the millions of Americans who want to do more. The President constantly remarks that one of the best ways to fight the evil of terrorism is with acts of kindness and service to others.

Americans are answering his call—more than 29,000 Americans have volunteered with the new citizens corps. And applications for AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps are up dramatically as well.

These volunteers know that when you change one person’s life, you are changing the world.

The experiences I gained at the Peace Corps and United Way of America—helping communities address local needs were great preparations for my current job. Because as Secretary of Labor, my job is to promote pathways to economic freedom for individuals and families working to achieve the American Dream.

This administration, under the leadership of President George W. Bush, envisions an American workforce in which “No Worker Is Left Behind.”It is a workforce in which each person can participate, where jobs and opportunities are available for everyone who wants to work, and where job training is valued and valuable so that each worker can realize his or her full potential. “No Worker Left Behind” is the companion initiative to President George W. Bush’s seminal education program, “No Child Left Behind.”

They address the themes that the panelists will discuss this afternoon:how to bring business, education and the non-profit community together to help prepare today’s workforce for the challenges of the 21st century.

As many of you know, our country today faces profound demographic and workplace changes.

Just think for a moment about how people used to work only a few decades ago.

If an employer needed workers, it hired people from the area. Whatever the new employees needed to know, they would learn on the job.

Employees divided neatly into categories—such as “blue collar” and “white collar.” Almost everyone worked at the plant or the office, and they worked mostly 9 to 5.

When they turned 60, they took the company pension and retired. Obviously, that’s not the way it was for everyone, but it describes how the majority of Americans experienced work for many years. Today, all that has changed.

The high tech revolution has transformed the workplace and globalized our economy. More and more people work away from the office, connected by nothing more than a laptop, a cell phone or a blackberry. The average person will change jobs nine times by the time he or she is 32.

Education is becoming more important than ever before. The new wrinkle is that—given the fast pace of technological change—workers must now commit themselves to lifelong learning. This is key to remaining competitive – as a nation and as workers—in the 21st century.

Everywhere I go employers tell me that they are having a difficult time finding workers with the skills they need. Yet, I see workers looking to find good jobs.

The problem goes far beyond a lack of proficiency in literacy, math and science. We simply aren’t doing enough to match the training our workers receive with the jobs that are available. John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco Systems, noted at the President’s economic summit in Waco that more than half a million technology jobs in the U.S. will go unfilled next year due to a lack of qualified workers.

Earlier this year, I visited UCLA medical center in Los Angeles and learned firsthand about the impact of our critical national shortage of nurses and health care workers.

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will be more than one million job openings for registered nurses alone by 2010. Yet health care companies are having a difficult time finding workers qualified for these jobs today. That’s why the Labor Department is partnering with private companies to create scholarships and other opportunities to train new health care workers.

Healthcare and technology are just two examples of the disconnects between the new jobs being created in the 21st century economy and the current skill set of many people in the workforce.

That’s why my mission as Secretary of Labor is to revitalize our workforce training programs to reflect the realities of the 21st century workforce. Part of that effort is to ensure that our public workforce investment system is relevant to the 21st century workplace.

As taxpayers, you fund a $12 billion annual public workforce investment system that trains workers who have lost their jobs or find themselves temporarily unemployed. In addition, our country expends about $45 billion every year to help people with transitional assistance while they are looking for new jobs, otherwise called unemployment insurance. The $59 billion budget of the Department of Labor, if compared to the corporations on the Fortune 500 list, would rank the department amongst America’s top 15 largest corporations, larger than Boeing, Bank of America, Kroger, to cite a few familiar examples.

Large, complex organizations are slow to change. Our workforce development system has had a hard time keeping pace with the tremendous changes in the workplace over the past decade. It is in need of a fresh overhaul.

This year we will have a real opportunity to do this because the Workforce Investment Act, which set up this program, will be reauthorized by the new Congress. One of my highest priorities as Secretary of Labor is to work with Congress to ensure that this legislation reflects the realities of the 21st century workforce.

Here are just a few of things we want to accomplish:

* First, we want to link our 1,800 One Stop Career Centers more closely with employers, so that we know where the new jobs are and what skills our workers need. We need to train dislocated workers with real-life skills for real jobs!
* Second, we want to simplify the cumbersome governing structure of the workforce investment system so that it focuses on its key mission: helping workers find jobs.
* Third, we want to improve how we measure performance. We want to ensure we are getting real-world results, not just processing people through a bureaucratic system.
* And fourth, we want to encourage more collaborative programs with local community groups and colleges—like the ones some of you may be working with right now.

We’ve got to close the skills gap if we are to thrive and prosper as a nation in the 21st century. It’s an area where government can’t do it all. We have got to enlist the nonprofit and business communities as partners if we are to close this gap.

The Workforce Investment System needs the business community to help identify where the new jobs are and to help develop training programs to teach workers the new skills these jobs require.

We need the education community to partner with the workforce development system to revitalize training and certification program for the skilled trades.

And we need the nonprofit community to provide tutoring and mentoring for those who lack basic skills, for those who need to upgrade their skills, or for workers who need successful role models.

All of us can play a role in preparing our workforce for the 21st century so that our economy remains competitive and strong.

By lending a hand wherever we are needed, we are doing much more than strengthening our economy. We are putting into practice the most cherished ideals of our nation. Each act of compassion and generosity fosters a culture of service, good citizenship and responsibility.

But most important, small acts of kindness have a way of transforming the world around us. They can turn a thousand points of light into a brilliant beacon of hope that will illuminate the world for generations to come.

Thank you for inviting me here today and thank you for what you are doing to help others realize their dreams.

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Story Source: Department of Labor

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Latvia; Peace Corps Directors - Chao; COS - Lithuania; COS - Estonia



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