REMARKS by MRS. GORE
SUMMIT ON 21st CENTURY SKILLS FOR 21st CENTURY JOBS
JANUARY 12, 1999
Thank you Secretary Daley for that introduction.
It is a great pleasure to welcome all of you here this morning to the Vice President's Summit on 21st Century Skills for 21st Century Jobs. I am particularly pleased to see such a broad array of professions and skills represented here, including business, labor, education, government and working Americans from all walks of life. Clearly, each of you recognize the challenges we face to expand opportunity for every American and maintain America's leadership in the global economy of the 21st Century. More than ever before, our success as a nation depends on a highly skilled workforce.
In just the past five years alone, breathtaking developments in technology have changed the way we communicate, the way we learn, and the way we do business. Just as important, these rapid changes are transforming the American workplace and the American work force.
This is not the first time in our history that Americans have had to rise to meet the challenge of rapid change. One hundred years ago during the Industrial Revolution, families moving from farms to factories needed new skills to survive in changing times. Today, on the edge of a new century and a new millennium, in the midst of the Information Revolution and an increasingly global economy, the challenge for our workers is no less great.
As Secretary Daley noted, the U.S. economy is expected to create nearly 19 million new jobs between 1996 and 2006 -- an increasing number of which will be filled by women.
Over the next ten years, eight out of the ten fastest growing jobs will require college education or long term training. Moreover, in the next decade, 75 percent of the current workforce will need significant retraining. That is why we must redouble our efforts to make lifelong learning a priority for every American.
I am particularly concerned that millions of Americans lack the literacy skills necessary to succeed in the workplace and community. Today, literacy means much more than just reading and writing. It includes the ability to communicate effectively, solve problems, and use technology. More than 20 percent of adults do not have the skills they need to earn a living wage. Although there are many fine programs and volunteers helping to improve this situation, more needs to be done and I am optimistic that this summit will provide new ideas on this issue.
Since the day they took office, President Clinton and Vice President Gore have worked to make education and training among their very highest priorities. For the Administration, this has meant:
-- Investing in K-12 education, raising academic standards for our public schools, supporting quality after-school programs, educational technology, and smaller classes with well-prepared teachers.
-- Establishing Hope Scholarships to help make the first two years of college or vocational training available to everyone.
-- Making a Lifetime Learning Credit available to offset tuition costs for those entering college or adults changing careers.
-- Winning record increases for the Pell Grant Scholarship programs. This year alone, we will help nearly 4 million low-and moderate-income students pay for college tuition.
-- Strengthening and expanding the Federal Work Study program that helps hundreds of thousands of students pay for college by working in part-time jobs.
These investments help millions of Americans take advantage of the opportunities of a growing and changing economy and help prepare them for the future.
As you spend the day addressing strategies for lifelong learning, I want you to keep in mind some of the individuals you are about to meet who are experiencing some of these changes I've been talking about. They represent the millions of Americans who are struggling to upgrade their skills to enter the workforce, to get a better job, to move ahead in their current job, or to re-enter the workforce after being dislocated. They demonstrate why education and training lead to improved wages, job security, and greater productivity. But more importantly, their determination, commitment, and courage remind us all why we are here today...and the potential for great accomplishment if we work together to seize this challenge.
First, meet MORGAN DAVIS from Washington State. Morgan had never touched a computer two years ago and had worked only in retail jobs. After taking an advanced technology course at Bellevue Community College, he started his own business building computers. Today, he also teaches a computer class at Bellevue. Morgan, tell us about your experience.
Thank you Morgan. Your story is extremely inspirational!
Now I would like to introduce JENNIFER COLLINS who hails from Georgia. Jennifer graduated from college in 1994 and found a job working behind a desk at a local hospital. But what she really wanted was a "career." She entered Georgia's Intellectual Capital Partnership Program, where she gained useful new skills -- and new confidence. Six months later, sheapplied those new skills toward a new job as a computer programmer for Total System Services. Last month she was promoted. Jennifer, tell us about it.
Thank you, Jennifer. You've got an impressive record of achievement.
Now meet ENRIQUE RAMIREZ from South San Francisco. Enrique left high school before graduating and worked for years as a baggage handler for United Airlines. He turned down promotions and the pay raises that went with them -- because he was embarrassed to tell his employer that he did not have strong enough reading skills to do the better paying jobs. But Enrique was committed to building a better life. He began participating in Project Read, a literacy program. Since then, he has steadily advanced at United, and today, he travels around the world training United employees on the latest computer technology. Enrique, please tell us your wonderful story.
Enrique is an outstanding example of why we need to address the problem of literacy. Not being able to read must be recognized as lack of opportunity and not lack of ability--and we must provide the opportunities.
Finally, JACQUI FULTON from Philadelphia is here with us. Jacqui had worked as a secretary for most of her life and didn't expect to have a problem getting back into the corporate world. Unfortunately, as we have discussed, she found that her lack of knowledge about computers kept her from finding a job. But she didn't give up -- she reached out. At the Women's Opportunities Resource Center she got the training she needed to go back to work. Today, she runs her own successful casting company, which casts major Hollywood movies filmed in Philadelphia. She recently fulfilled her life-long dream of purchasing an apartment. Jacqui, we are eager to hear from you.
Congratulations, Jacqui. You're terrific! In fact, each of you is a wonderful example of what people can do when they have the resources and tools they need to make the most of their lives! You have given us real insight into the challenges that lie ahead and how we can meet them. Thank you all so much.
While I have already outlined to you some of the programs that the Clinton-Gore Administration is making available, we all know that government cannot do it all. That is where you come in. No government program can be successful if it isn't accompanied by a firm commitment at the community level -- hand-in-hand with business, labor and education. We all must work together to make sure that people like Morgan, Jennifer, Enrique, and Jacqui get the training they need tomake the most of the opportunities of this exciting new era.
From businesses granting educational leave for employees to return to school for additional training, to colleges and universities "loaning" their professors for training programs; from communities helping retirees to pass on skills, to industry and labor working together to help students learn important job skills -- each of us must do our part to make sure that America meets the challenge of a rapidly changing world, and goes strong into the 21st Century.
Fourteen months ago my husband addressed a Lifelong Learning Conference at which he announced the Summit we are holding today. This is an issue that he and I feel is so important to the future of all Americans. I would like to close by quoting something he said earlier:
"Human beings are born to learn. There is no matching the satisfaction and exhilaration of learning -- whether it is a triumphant two-year old tying a shoe, an adventurous eighty-year old sending an E-mail, or even a Vice President who tries to balance a hectic schedule with the latest readings in science and technology. The point is, lifelong learning is essential to good living, as well as a good standard of living. We must do more to help all Americans pursue lifelong-learning -- for their sake, for the sake of their families, and for the sake of our nation."