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Remarks by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo at the U.S. Conference of Mayors 90th Winter Meeting

Thank you for that introduction.

It’s great to be with you today along with my friend Secretary Cardona. Our departments are working alongside the Department of Labor to achieve an equitable economic recovery that benefits employers and workers.

I’d like to spend some time highlighting the programs we’re working on at the Department of Commerce to invest in education and our workforce.

Thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, Commerce has launched a new $500 million program called the Good Jobs Challenge.

By investing in sector-based partnerships, the Good Jobs Challenge will bring employers together with community colleges, training providers, and local governments to design systems that help get Americans – particularly women, people of color, and those in underserved communities – back to work in good-paying jobs.

It will help build a talent pipeline that addresses the current labor shortage and places 100,000 American workers in good jobs.

The success of this program depends on all of you.

We need your insight, working with your local businesses, so that these partnerships can meet the unique needs of your communities.

There is no point in us spending millions of dollars to train workers for jobs that companies don’t need.

Bring your local employers to the table and push their leaders to commit to hire Americans who go through those training systems.

Better yet, ask them to commit to hiring Americans before they go through the training process.

This is essential to achieving equity in workforce development, because too many Americans just can’t afford to take months off work to learn new skills.

With registered apprenticeships and other earn-and-learn systems, Americans won’t have to wait until they’re finished training to start earning a decent wage.  

And to ensure workers can complete these training programs, we designed the Good Jobs Challenge to cover services like childcare and transportation.

We also know that access to affordable, high-speed internet is a necessity for education and workforce development.

Unfortunately, millions of Americans don’t have the digital skills they need to succeed. And our economy cannot fully recover unless all Americans can fully participate.

Without the knowledge necessary to use today’s technology, workers are at risk of being left behind.

That’s why it’s crucial that we close the digital divide.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $65 billion to expand access to high-speed, affordable broadband and help all Americans get the digital skills they need to succeed.

That total includes nearly $3 billion for the Digital Equity Act.

States will receive funds to invest in digital inclusion for communities that lack the skills, technologies, and support needed to take advantage of broadband connections.

In the coming months, each state will be tasked with writing a Digital Equity Plan and setting up the infrastructure to take advantage of these funds.

Please consider how you can work with your states to ensure this investment meets the needs of your constituents.

I hope you’ll view the Commerce Department as a resource and ally.

We want to make sure your voices are being heard at the federal level.

Your efforts are crucial to both our recovery and ensuring that America remains competitive in the global economy.

Thank you for the on-the-ground work you’re doing in your communities to support and invest in our workforce.

And with that, I’ll turn it over to Mayor Gallego.

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