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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Emily DeRocco
Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training, Department of Labor

March 2, 2005

Emily DeRocco

Good afternoon. I'm delighted to be on "Ask the White House" to take your questions on workforce development -- a subject that is near and dear to my heart and equally important to the President. In fact, I had the pleasure of accompanying the President this morning on his visit to Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland where he highlighted his proposals to ensure workers can obtain the education and training they need to succeed in the 21st century economy. This is a new platform for me so I'll try to answer as many questions as I can. Let's get started.

Susanna, from Maalvern, Pennsylvania writes:
Ms. DeRocco, Let me begin by thanking you for making yourself available today to answer questions on behalf of the Labor Department. I would like to know what you see as the top workforce needs of business in the 21st century. Could you give an example of a training program for these skills including time and cost? I will look forward to your reply. With appreciation, Susanna

Emily DeRocco
Hi, Susanna. I grew up in Carlisle, PA, and am always happy to hear from a fellow Pennsylvanian! You pose a very interesting question, and I appreciate your taking the time to ask. I frequently meet with industry leaders about this very topic, and hearing from them has helped us gain an understanding of how the federal job training system can be more responsive to their needs and an effective partner in equipping their workforce with skills to remain competitive. Although each industry has unique issues, they also have common workforce challenges. The most common challenge is attracting an educated and skilled workforce, and ensuring that their workers’ skills keep pace with advances in our 21st Century economy. President George W. Bush has been traveling the country highlighting the role that community colleges play in working with employers to design training programs that meet their needs and are flexible for students. We are also working closely with community colleges and employers across the country to support innovative training programs - many of which are short term and cost effective - to prepare workers for exciting careers in industries such as healthcare, finance, energy, construction, hospitality, retail, biotechnology, geospatial technology and aerospace, to name a few. Information about these programs is available on-line at

Tosha, from Georgia writes:
How can a teenager that is of legal working age get training for a job, when not many places will hire, because of the lack of experience?

Emily DeRocco
That is a good question that highlights a “catch-22” that many teenagers face. First, stay in school and get your high school diploma. Second, most employers want young people who are energetic and hard working. Sell yourself and your strengths. Once you get that first job, you will be on your way! Young people should contact their local One-Stop Career Center to find out about training and job opportunities for youth. Ask the One-Stop staff what jobs are in demand in your community or region and look for training programs that lead to a credential or certificate for those jobs. A credential will be important to an employer particularly if you do not have work experience. You should also ask adults who know you well for a reference; they may be able to refer you to local employers. Volunteering is a good way to get experience. Personal references, student leadership positions and volunteer experiences are good to have on a resume if you are looking for a first job.

Many high schools and community colleges offer courses that provide work experience as part of the course’s curriculum. You may also want to look into apprenticeship programs that are sponsored by employers and provide on-the-job training and classroom training for beginning level workers in skilled occupations. Don’t give up.

Russ, from Colorado writes:
What is the key to engaging more business leaders in the leadership of local Workforce Investment Boards? How can we keep them involved?

Emily DeRocco
Hi, Russ. I hope you have had a great ski season! The Labor Department has been working very hard to make the public workforce investment system “demand-driven” in the economic sense. Employers are demanding skilled workers to keep America competitive in the global economy, and our public system should be responsive to that demand. We have to engage employers and involve them in policy setting and strategic planning. Business-led Workforce Investment Boards are operating in every state and 600 localities throughout the nation for this reason. We have proposed reforms to Boards so that employers have an even larger voice at the community level.

Brian, from College Station, Texas writes:
Howdy, When was the Department of Labor created? How can the government help people gain jobs in the private sector? Isn't that their responsibility? Thanks for answering my question I love this format.

Emily DeRocco
Howdy to you too, Brian. The Department of Labor was created in 1913. You are correct that individuals should take control of their own education and careers. Still, some people need some assistance, and the government has a role to play in providing that help. Helping people gain jobs in the private sector is the business of the agency I administer. The primary means is through the workforce investment system’s One-Stop Career Centers that I described in my other responses. To find your nearest One-Stop Center or to obtain information on available jobs, visit America’s Service locator at Government can assist people in obtaining jobs by making information available on job openings, the skills needed by employers, and additional resources to obtain those skills. Remember the individual has the responsibility to use this information wisely and pursue available opportunities.

Bonnie, from Florida writes:
How do you plan to improve and measure the performance of the President's job training program?

Emily DeRocco
Both the President and I feel very strongly that programs funded by the American taxpayer should be effective and efficient. That is why the President has proposed a number of reforms to improve job training programs. These reforms will provide Governors and local officials the flexibility to run more successful programs and help more Americans get good jobs. The President’s proposal for job training reform also simplifies how the performance of job training programs is measured. The programs will be measured by three primary indicators – placement in employment, retention in employment, and earning gains. Job training programs will work over time toward the goal of placing 100 percent of participants into employment.

Jess, from MA writes:
How will the President's job training initiative promote economic development on the state and local levels?

Emily DeRocco
I am a strong believer in the power of the connection between employment, education and economic development. In a knowledge-based economy like ours, a top priority for all of us must be to ensure that we have the skilled workforce we need to spur economic growth and productivity. Many businesses identify their greatest challenge as finding skilled workers to fill their jobs. Thus, we are working closely at the state and community level to leverage the investment of public sector dollars in a way that bolsters job creation. A skilled workforce is a critical economic development tool, and we need to be sure that local and regional workforces can meet new challenges so that we have a vibrant economy.

brandy, from California writes:
I am currently attending community college, triing to further my education so I can make a life for me and my daughter. Although it is very tough, this is what I must do. My question is.. are there any grants out there or maybe work study programs besides financial aid that I can apply to? I am triing hard and I also work, it just seems to get tougher and tougher for us? I need help

Emily DeRocco
It’s great that you are attending community college, Brandy, and as a working Mom myself, I know how hard it is to keep up with all of life’s demands. You represent the people that President Bush wants to help succeed with training through community college programs. I would suggest you look over the information we have posted at under the tab marked “Advancing your Career.” In addition to that, you may call 1-877-US-2JOBS to find the location of the One-Stop Career Center closest to your home. One-Stop Centers have trained vocational counselors that can provide you with information on supportive services to help you get through school, which might include a part-time job placement.

Cliff, from Brimfield Ohio writes:
Secretary DeRocco: In the scope of job training. Does the government provide money to Companies directly to provide the training. Or is this done through Vocational School's or Colleges. Can an individual apply directly to the government for finacial assistance in job training in a new field? And is the training limited to specfic skill or trade areas? Thank You

Emily DeRocco
Hi, Cliff. It is great to have a question from Ohio; I was just in Columbus last week. The Federal government supports job training in many ways. My agency provides funding to states that in turn provide funding to local communities. At the local level, individuals receive Individual Training Accounts that can be used at an array of state-approved educational and training institutions. Such institutions include community and technical schools, private training providers and community-based organizations. In some instances, training is provided through companies who provide customized training or on-the-job training. We financially support this type of training as well. Generally speaking, Federal funds are used to train individuals in jobs that are in demand in their local community. Individuals can access Individual Training Accounts through their local One-Stop Career Center ( Direct financial support for postsecondary education can also be obtained through the Department of Education’s Pell grant program.

Holly, from Omaha, NE writes:
Hello,I am a 17 year old in homeschool. I volunteer at the library every Wednesday, and I read many books. I hope to be a librarian someday. Am I doing enough to prepare for my future job, or what else can I do to get ready for the working world after college? Thank you

Emily DeRocco
It sounds as if you are focused on a goal, Holly, and you are doing some of the right things by reading and volunteering. Personally, I love to read and find it is one of the most important activities in my family and professional life. You might want to do more research on the field of Library Science and the career opportunities that are a part of it, especially in the area in which you live. One of the best things you can do is talk to librarians and find out what skills you need to gain in order to be successful. Also go to and hit the tab marked “Advancing your Career” for more information.

Rick, from Wagoner, Oklahoma writes:
What is your department specifically doing to increase jobs in some of the economically disadvantaged areas of our country, such as in rural Oklahoma?

Emily DeRocco
A strong U.S. economy, supported by the pro-growth policies of the President, is needed to help areas like rural Oklahoma. The President has proposed $3.7 billion for a new Strengthening America’s Communities Grant Program in the Department of Commerce. This would provide economically distressed communities with a source of funding for planning, infrastructure development, and financing for projects to achieve long-term economic stability and growth. The Department of Labor’s workforce investment system works closely with economic development agencies to make sure the skills training we provide is for jobs that are being created. We also are currently testing a program in rural Maine and Minnesota that helps people start their own small business. Small businesses are the bedrock of the nation’s economy, accounting for over 70% of all non-farm employment. This program, Project GATE, provides entrepreneurial training and assistance to individuals wishing to create, sustain, or expand an existing small business. You can check out details on Project GATE online at

isaiah, from ilfprd, nj writes:
how do you feel about the dol job corp program and do you feel it has been a success?

Emily DeRocco
I am very proud of Job Corps. For forty years it has been doing great work helping economically disadvantaged young people prepare for careers and live up to their full potential. Job Corps provides academic, vocational and life skills training and helps youth complete their secondary education in a residential setting. Training is offered in more than 100 occupations. Job Corps serves nearly 65,000 youth in 118 centers located throughout the country including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Job Corps has one of the highest placement rates among the nation’s job training programs. Eighty-seven percent of all graduates are placed in jobs, enlist in the military or enroll in further education.

Amy, from Augusta, Georgia writes:
Dear Emily,What exactly does your job entail? Do you help train people for jobs? Or do you help people find jobs?

Thank you, Amy

Emily DeRocco
Hello, Amy. It is truly an honor to serve the President at the Department of Labor and to work each day to help accomplish his goals for America's workforce. The agency I oversee provides funds to states and local communities for employment and job training programs. These programs are designed to help people realize their career dreams. I try to ensure that Federal resources are used effectively and efficiently to help America’s economy thrive and grow.

Caroline, from Washington DC writes:
In the District of Columbia, there are many disadvantaged youths who need good role models and job training. Does your office within the DOL work with these kids and other at-risk youth throughout the country?

Emily DeRocco
The District of Columbia is very much like other urban areas of America with large numbers of youth who drop out of school and can become disconnected from community services and educational institutions. At the Labor Department we are focusing our funds on those youth most at-risk and in need of our services. We are also working with other Federal agencies to really focus federal resources on high school dropouts, runaway and homeless youth, youth in foster care, court involved youth, children of incarcerated parents and migrant youth.

The public workforce system provides skills training, education, mentoring and supportive services to youth through programs offered at community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, alternative schools, and One-Stop Career Centers. We also grant funds directly to organizations operating in the District such as Operation Hope, which is providing computer training and placing young adults in the banking industry.

sherry, from santa clara writes:
Ms. DeRocco,It seems as if many young poeple these days simply would rather have opportunities handed to them instead of working hard to achieve their goals.

Does your program help young people with job training so that they have the motivation to get out and do something with their lives?

Emily DeRocco
Thank you for your question. The President talks about an “ownership society,” and we believe people must take ownership of their careers. The public workforce system definitely does serve youth and provides a wide variety of activities to help them get the skills they need to find and keep a job. The activities include occupational skill training, mentoring, instruction leading to completion of high school, tutoring, and paid and unpaid work experiences. We know that 80% of future jobs will require some postsecondary education or training, so we are very committed to connecting youth with high quality secondary and postsecondary education and employment services. We are also working to ensure that youth job training funds are used for training in high demand occupations. There are exciting employment opportunities in such fields as health care, information technology, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, hospitality, financial services and energy.

Marjorie, from Springfield, Illinois writes:
Can you tell me what the President is going to speak about today with job training? thank you.

Emily DeRocco
This morning, the President said our current job training programs are too complex, with too many federal rules and bureaucracies. He spoke about increasing flexibility in job training programs and doubling the number of workers receiving training. He plans to do this by consolidating a number of federal funding streams, sending the dollars to the governors, and giving governors more flexibility to design job training programs that meet their states’ economic needs. He recognized how important it is for businesses to define what skills they need in their workers and educators to teach those skills. The President also talked about his Community College Initiative, which helps build the capacity of community colleges to design training programs that meet the skill needs of high growth industries. This initiative will help workers obtain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workplace.

Daniel, from Lakeville, CT writes:
How is the Dept. going to help train new nurses, because there is a shortage. I am a 14 year old very interested in politics and the like.

Emily DeRocco
Hi, Daniel, I like politics too! You ask a very good question. Health Care is one of the fastest growing industries; in fact it’s projected to add 3.5 million jobs by 2012. So far, we have invested $24 million to build educational opportunities to counter health care labor shortages. As an example, we funded a Specialty Nurse Training project in Florida and Texas that utilizes technology to create a hands-on learning environment. Developing new ways to train nurses and building the capacity of community colleges’ nursing programs will help make this career available to more people. You can find specific information about other projects on our web site at

Jarred, from Louisiana writes:
Do you work with the Department of Education to help with job training? I read lots of the President's speeches and he always seems to speak about education and jobs together, so I was wondering how directly you worked with them. Thank you for your time.

Emily DeRocco
Jarred, that’s a great question. The President and I both feel that the link between education and employment is very important. More and more jobs in our economy are requiring education or training beyond high school. In fact, approximately 80% of jobs will require some post-secondary education. The Departments of Labor and Education do work closely together. One example of our collaborative effort is the development and launch of the Career Voyages Web site ( This exciting site provides information on jobs that are in-demand by employers – along with the skills and education needed to attain those jobs.

In addition, to assure that Americans receive relevant skills that match today’s and tomorrow’s jobs, we at the Labor Department work with the Education Department, community colleges and employers in designing course curriculum and college programs. This means that community colleges can continuously update their classes to train young people and transitioning workers in the latest skills needed by business. Just today, President Bush visited a community college in Maryland and highlighted this. You can find his speech at /news/releases/2005/03/20050302-4.html.

Shelli, from New York City writes:
Ms. DeRocco,I am a nineteen year old college student attending a community college. Because I am supporting myself throughout college, how can I utilize the governments programs with job training to ensure I can get the best job possible when I graduate?

Thank you, Shelli

Emily DeRocco
One of the goals of the Department of Labor is to help hard-working young people like you get the training and other assistance they need to start a great career. Attending a community college is certainly an important step. I encourage you to visit your local One-Stop Career Center where you can access a wide variety of employment and training services. For example, at the One-Stop Center, you can access job openings, get help with interviewing skills or resume writing, and learn about additional job training opportunities and financial assistance. To find the One-Stop Career Center that is closest to you, visit America’s Service Locator website ( and submit your zip code. You’ll get a list of the Centers in your area.

Emily DeRocco
Thanks for all of your questions today; they were terrific. I encourage you to visit us frequently at to obtain current information on all of our efforts.

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