Remarks by the First Lady at the U.S. Department of Labor's Investing in America's Workforce Convening in Crystal City, Virginia

May 16, 2023

[As prepared for delivery.]

Thank you, Brandon, for sharing your story with us and for being part of the movement of incredible workers who are building our future.

I'm also grateful to all of the staff at the Department of Labor for bringing us all together today.

When I was growing up, success meant one thing: getting a four-year degree. I'm sure that's how it was for most of you as well. There are still a lot of people who feel that way.

But I teach at a community college not far from here. And while some of my students are working towards their bachelor's degree, that path just isn't right for all of them.

Some students can't afford to juggle school and take care of their families for that long. Some of them want to work in the trades or jobs that require a year or two of learning. Some of them, well, they don't have any idea what they want to do. I mean, it's not that easy to figure out the rest of your life at 19.

And there are times when they feel frustrated. But when they ask me for advice, I get to tell them that things are changing.

My husband, Joe, understands that, for most people, a high school diploma alone isn't enough to find a great career.

But that doesn't mean there's only one path to success.

Students can take college courses in high school or enroll in Registered Apprenticeships. They can train in growing industries and find great jobs with associate degrees.

Now, a lot of these programs aren't new.

But here's what is: Jobs.

Through the Biden Administration's Investing in America agenda, we're rebuilding our nation's infrastructure and bringing back supply chains. And we're creating millions of jobs in growing industries like clean energy and manufacturing.

This group knows exactly what I mean: Wind turbines and semiconductor manufacturing. Rebuilding our nation's bridges, roads, and ports. This work pays well and often doesn't require four years of college.

And we're connecting people to those jobs. We're bringing together our entire government—along with incredible allies like all of you—to bridge the gap between learning and earning.

That's the Biden education pathway. It starts with free, high-quality universal preschool and creates a high school experience that prepares students for their next steps. It provides two years of affordable community college and opens up avenues to a four-year degree for those who want one.

Today, I'm announcing two brand new Investing in America initiatives that will create a huge number of these pathways for students across the nation.

First, we're launching Workforce Hubs—with an initial focus on five key cities: Phoenix, Columbus, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Augusta—cities that have received significant investments from both the federal government and private companies. And in those places, our administration will work with local leaders, community colleges, unions, and employers to develop training pathway goals. For example, employers may commit to increasing the number of women in the construction sector—or community colleges could create new coursework to support green jobs. Then we'll help make those goals a reality.

These efforts will not only strengthen the five cities—they will create models that other areas can work to replicate.

Additionally, the administration is going to collaborate across the country with organizations like yours to expand training opportunities for advanced manufacturing jobs. This area is critical to so many of the industries that are growing because of the Biden Administration's investments. And we want to work with you to get this done.

In a time when we often struggle to find common ground, investing in our workforce brings Americans together.

In fact, I was recently in Colorado, talking with legislators from both sides of the aisle about bills that would provide free and reduced-cost job training for in-demand careers. And the Governor is signing those bipartisan bills today!

We've already made progress, and we can do so much more. I'm here today because this is one of Joe's key priorities.

And it's why so many of his top leaders are here too, like the President's advisor on clean energy innovation, John Podesta, his infrastructure implementation coordinator, Mitch Landrieu, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

But we can't do this without you.

So, I want to thank you for that leadership—and ask you to keep going. Build relationships with your high schools, counselors, community colleges, and universities to ensure that our education system is truly connected to our workforce.

Join these Investing in America workforce initiatives and help us rebuild our infrastructure, advance our clean energy future, and revitalize our manufacturing here at home.

Through the Biden education pathway, we can fundamentally transform what it means to make a living and make a life here in America.

Thank you.

Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady at the U.S. Department of Labor's Investing in America's Workforce Convening in Crystal City, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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