Press Briefing by Secretary of Education Richard Riley and Secretary of Labor Robert Reich
The Briefing Room
11:04 A.M. EDT
SECRETARY RILEY: Good morning to everyone. It's a real pleasure for us to be here today for this signing of the School to Work Opportunities Act. And I want to, first of all, thank Secretary Bob Reich, whom I've worked closely with in this effort and really side by side, and thank him for his tremendous leadership in getting the legislation passed and being so involved with his department in shaping it; and thank all of my people who have worked closely with his people in a spirit of cooperation.
And I think the President's Cabinet has indeed demonstrated a unique ability to work together. And I think this is a good example of it. When the President was first elected, he knew that we needed to do more in preparing children for this emerging global economy. And the first step, then, was to develop a method of coming at world class standards and learning. And he knew that without high standards the rest of the system would fail. And that's kind of the building block to build education upon.
Goals 2000, that the President signed a little over a month ago, was that first step. And it created a framework then for implementing the high academic and skill standards that were called for in Goals. And it allows local communities then to create innovative ways to reach these high standards.
So this School to Work Opportunities Act is a natural complement to Goals 2000. And it uses innovative means of teaching to help students make the connection between school and the workplace and to really enjoy the learning process. Learning to those same high standards, but doing it in a different way connected a broad career range that they're interested in.
When young people enjoy learning and they know why they're learning, they learn more. And too many of our schools have failed our children and failed to challenge them even with the most basic skills. School to Work can end that kind of boredom. So from an education standpoint, I'm very excited about it. And we are so pleased that school to work has become, once signed, a welcome reinvention of the American high school as we know it.
And this is really the first stage of that, a way to catch the attention of students who otherwise would drift away perhaps and move them into this lifetime of learning that the President talks about. It's an educational program that makes sense for the students and the nation. And I am so proud to be here with Secretary Reich for this signing today. Bob --
SECRETARY REICH: Thank you, Dick. I want to echo a couple of thing that Dick said from the side of the school-to-work continuum which is the work side. You can't really separate school from work these days and that's why the Education Department and the Labor Department are working so hard together.
I want to compliment Dick Riley and his staff and the work that they have done. This is unprecedented, I am told. When we came to the Cabinet, we were told that the Education Department and Labor Departments were worlds apart. Well, we have made them one world. Again, you can't separate education, the world of education from the world of work any longer.
The School-to-Work Opportunities Act is one foundation stone, one more foundation stone in the structure of lifelong learning that the President is creating. We have Goals 2000; we have the National Voluntary Skills Standards as part of Goals 2000. We have the school-to-work opportunities program which helps people, young people who may not be going on to a four-year college gain the skills they need and stay in school and then move beyond school for at least a year getting the skills, the foundation skills they need in industry in an area of competence. And then the Reemployment Act which the President has introduced several weeks ago to make sure that that lifelong learning continues.
Over the past year, Secretary Riley and I have traveled across the country and seen again and again the importance to young people of tying work-based learning to school-based learning. Now, let me tell you specifically what I'm talking about. Yesterday I was in Los Angeles, met with a large number of young people many of whom would have dropped out of high school were in not for this kind of a program.
Many young people today simply don't see the relevance of what they're doing in the classrooms, the world of work. They don't have models around them of the world of work. When you break down the barrier between academic learning and vocational education, when you link work-based learning and school-based learning, these young kids not only stay in school, but they do better. When you give them a year or more beyond high school, even if they're not going on to college, to extend the classroom and work-based learning that they've got, then they do have the basis for continued learning thereafter. And again and again I've heard from these kids, and I've heard from employers, both sides, kids and employers, how important this kind of program is.
The federal government is going to be establishing through this piece of legislation a venture capital pool, we might call it. A hundred million dollars we have in 1994; we are seeking, the President is seeking $300 million in 1995, hopefully more thereafter. States can compete, localities can compete for this money. And all we're requiring -- this is not a one size fits all; this is not a top-down federal bureaucratic program. We're simply asking them that they have, in the 11th and 12th grade, a schoolbased program that fits in with a work-based program; there be mentors at the work base that connect what's learned at school to what's learned at work; and that at least a year beyond high school those kids can go on and perfect an area of competence.
We've seen it work. This is tried and tested. We're building on what several states and localities are already doing. This is a very important investment in America's future. It's a critical investment in the vast majority of our kids who do not go on to finish a four-year college.
Let me say one final thing. The good news is that we've created 2.5 million new jobs, net new jobs, in this country over the past 15 months. And as you know, that's more than twice what was created over the previous four years. The not-so-good news is that we continue to see a widening of the gap that started 15 years ago between people who are well educated -- their wages and benefits --
and people who are poorly education and relatively unskilled. That skill gap continues to widen.
Two weeks ago, three weeks ago, I think it was, the Bureau of the Census came out with a very frightening statistic -- 18 percent of full-time workers are not earning enough to keep a family of four out of poverty, 1993. Same as 1992. In 1979, it was 12 percent. The gap is widening; and it's widening because skills are become more and more important. We must not let a college degree become the parchment that divides the haves from the have-nots, the winners from the losers in our economy.
And this program, that the President is signing into law today, is one vital component of a lifetime learning system that will help prevent that from happening and help reverse that trend.
Now, let me -- let us take any questions that any of you has.
Q: That's the money involved, the $100 million for the first year?
SECRETARY REICH: For 1994, based on present authority, it's $100 million. We are seeking -- the President is seeking $300 million in 1995 budget, and hopefully we'll continue to have increases thereafter.
Q: And exactly where does that money go? I mean, does it go to the students as payment for this work? Does it go to implementing the programs? Exactly where --
SECRETARY REICH: States and locales can compete. This is a competitive program. And they compete on the basis of some very simple criteria. That is, they have to have a work-based learning system tied closely to school-based learning. They've got to have mentors there at the work site working with teachers. And they've got to have at least a year beyond high school that caps that two years, from 11th and 12th grade, and provides students with a skill cluster, potentially enabling them to continuously learn thereafter. That money would go to the state or to the locale to develop those programs.
And, again, I want to emphasize, we have seen programs like this work all over the country. Many states, many cities have been trying them out. But the entire effort has momentum, we want to give it more momentum. We want to add to the momentum that is already there and provide resources that many states and cities don't have for this.
Q: But the students themselves are not getting money in a payment form?
SECRETARY REICH: The students themselves would not directly be getting money.
Q: Is there any move towards making this more technologically oriented versus service oriented in terms of the kind of training?
SECRETARY REICH: The states and locales have discretion as to how they shape the program. This is one a one-size-fits-all program. And that's one thing -- one thing that's unique about it, not only is it unique that the Education and Labor Departments are getting together, not only is it unique that we're not creating a bureaucratic structure here in Washington, it really is seed capital. But we're also setting performance standards that are very simple. And we're having a competition among states and localities to actually get that money. And depending upon their creativity, their energy, how they envision their local needs, they will be eligible for these kinds of grants.
Q: How many students do you anticipate would be profiting from this program?
SECRETARY REICH: Well, it could be a very large number. It depends entirely on how these are structured at the state and the, even the local level. That 100 million this year, which we're already -- we've already provided under current authority some planning grants and some implementation grants. All states have got planning grants already this year, and a few are going to get implementation grants on a competitive basis, and the same with some locales.
But the multiply effect could be very large depending upon the participation of the business community and the participation of other layers of government. And one of the criteria is how actively engaged the business community is. You know, I met yesterday with employers in Los Angeles. We've met with employers all over the country who are eager to get involved with something like this. This depends not just on educators, it also depends on the employer community.
SECRETARY RILEY: The general number that, of course, you hear is around three-fourths of the high school kids who don't go on to a four-year college program. So we're looking at a large body that very likely would be candidates for this program. And I think the reference to the planning and the development grants is very important. And while the competition for the implementation grants is out there. Every state already is in the process of planning and developing and looking at technology and looking at the other aspects of the program that they want to emphasize and bring forth.
Q: What sort of an environment are these extra one or two years -- a classroom environment or a workplace environment? And is this akin to -- can it in any way be described as an apprentice program?
SECRETARY REICH: It is a kind of apprenticeship program in the sense that after the two years, after 11th and 12th grade, employers are actively engaged in developing the curriculum. Employers within an industry, employers within a region working with the schools, often community colleges in developing that final year or two of curriculum. So we're really talking about a potential three or four years beginning in 10th grade that integrates school and work.
Q: So if someone is thinking, for example, of becoming an electrician, in this final one or two years, what I think I'm hearing is that people who are electrical contractors are involved in this process and actually train this person to become an electrician. Or is it not that specific?
SECRETARY REICH: It could be that specific. But let me give you some other examples. Not too long ago I was in Boston and visited a program in which young people were being taught in the afternoons how to apply construction skills on the job. They were building a homeless shelter and in the morning, they were learning mathematics, geometry and other relevant mathematics.
A young girl came up to me with a big smile on her face -- and these were young people in danger of dropping out -- and she said, "I love geometry." Nobody had ever said that to me before. And I asked her why. And she said because she's learning in the morning geometry, and she can actually apply it in the afternoon. This is the 11th and 12th grade.
Another example -- to be a car mechanic these days, you've got to understand the electronics underneath the hood of a car. The old days of being a car mechanic are long gone. The old vocational education track which was completely separated in some cases from the academic track no longer is applicable to many of these jobs. You do need some extra training and skills.
In Chicago not long ago I talked with a group of employers in the plastic injection molding business. They couldn't get young people because they needed, those young people needed extra skills to get into that business to understand statistical process control and other dimensions of that business.
But again, we in this country do not have presently a system for helping young people get from school to work into technical occupations, technician occupations. All we have essentially is a college program, a four-year college program which often is unnecessary to many of the jobs of the future. We should not shoehorn every young person who wants a good job in America. We should not shoehorn them into a four-college program. Only 25 percent of our young people graduate from college. And many of the good jobs do not need a four-year college degree
SECRETARY RILEY: Let me say a word about the whole spectrum of education from Head Start and early childhood on into K through 12 with Goals 2000 high standards all the way through capital assessment. All of that, then the high standards -- what a young person should know in the 11th grade in terms of science or algebra or whatever.
Once we have those goals there that the whole systemic part of education would drive young people towards learning. Then when you get into the high school years, of course, you had all of that hopefully strong background, and then young people who want to get into career learning have no lesser standards. I think that's an important factor.
We're talking about the same high standards all the way through the system, the same knowledge about math and science and foreign language or whatever. Those young people who decide to go into career learning, then in the 11th or 12th grade would learn about algebra and geometry and whatever in a different way, perhaps. Not all of their classes would be totally different. But if a young person was interested in finance, then they would spend time in a local bank, and bankers would be in the class meeting with them, or a stockbroker or whatever. And through that process would learn higher levels of math and how to use the math, the basic math that they had learned in algebra and geometry.
So I think if you see this is a very different kind of a process. This measure really puts together a collaboration. That is, it gets the business leaders, the industrial leaders, the educators, the government leaders, parents, and all together in a community and develops for that community, with this industry and that business that's out there, real and relevant in that community, how then should you develop this classroom in the school, as Bob described it, and then in the work base and then the connecting the two.
So I want you to understand we're talking about raising standards for all children, all the way through the system and this just brings in this exciting way for them to deal with reaching those standards in those last couple of years, and then on into higher education.
Q: Secretary Reich, as you may know, this morning the Federal Reserve in consertation with some other central banks were involved in supporting the U.S. dollar. Is the Clinton
administration concerned that the weaker dollar -- the dollar current levels is inflationary?
SECRETARY REICH: No. No. We are on a steady, sustainable, noninflationary course. The economy is in good shape; it is not over-heating; it is not under-heating. We are seeing continuation -- and I'm not going to make any predictions because the new employment numbers are coming out this Friday -- but with regard to last month, the months before, we have seen steady, solid employment growth, and we expect that to continue. There is no inflation on the horizon at all. Incomes are growing, but they are not growing in any ways that would signal inflation, inflationary concerns.
Q: So there is no concern then with the dollar at current levels that that might in and of itself be inflationary?
SECRETARY REICH: No, because, again, the dollar currency valuations are relatively short-term phenomena. Currencies go up, they move up, they move down, and that is dependant upon expectations of holders of any individual currency as to what another currency is going to do in the short-term.
We're talking not about the paper economy; we're talking about the real economy here. And Secretary Riley and I are talking about the heart of the real economy, which is the skills of our work force.
Q: Quick question. They areas -- do you have -- does the federal government have specific job areas that it wants to promote in this whole plan?
SECRETARY REICH: No. It would be inappropriate for the government to indicate which skills are necessary for the future economy. We want employers to come together with educators and plot that future. In fact, as part of Goals 2000, there is a national voluntary skills standards process so that employers and communitybased organizations, educators, labor leaders can come together and analyze the trends; see what kinds of skills are going to be in demand; what kind of certification programs, voluntary certification programs, are most useful for kids who do not go on to a four-year college.
Again, the four-year college degree has become a proxy for employers too often, signaling that here is a person who is worth investing in for lifelong learning. That should not be the case. Seventy-five percent of our kids don't graduate from a four-year college. They are on a downward escalator right now, and we have got to reverse that trend. This is part of an effort, along with Goals 2000, the voluntary skills certification process, and the school-towork process, that seeks to reverse that trend, as well as the Reemployment Act; these all fit together.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 11:30 A.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Secretary of Education Richard Riley and Secretary of Labor Robert Reich Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269514