Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao gave her first annual "State of the Workforce" address Aug. 30. During a speech to the Council for Excellence in Government in Washington, D.C., Chao highlighted the strengths of America''s workforce and outlined the challenges that remain for the 21st Century.
"The state of the workforce is strong," Chao said. "But we can always do better, and we will if we focus on improving the lives of America''s working families."
"Work trends tell us that old notions of the workforce cannot meet the needs and expectations of a new generation of workers. Today, America''s working people are embracing changes no one could have imagined even a decade ago. They''re rewriting the rules, challenging the status quo, and daring government to match its pace to theirs. The result is a workforce that isn''t just
responding to the next American Revolution, but leading it. We have a workforce that is stronger, safer and more skilled than any generation before it."
Chao''s first State of the Workforce address follows in the tradition of previous secretaries of labor. The address is usually given before Labor Day, a holiday which history suggests began in New York City in 1885 by Peter J. McGuire, a member of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.
In her speech, Chao focused on the need for workers to develop new and in-demand skills, and the importance of utilizing resources to ensure America''s workforce remains competitive in the changing global economy.
"My goal is to ensure that the policies, programs and regulations we create support the American workforce," said Chao. "The Department of Labor must reflect the realities that American workers confront everyday when they walk into their stores, offices, and factories. Yesterday''s skills will not fuel tomorrow''s economy."
"Today, in many cases, unemployment often means a disconnect between the new jobs our economy is producing and the current skill levels of Americans in the workforce. The skills gap is too wide for many Americans, and often jobs created by the economy go begging because employers cannot find qualified workers. Job training and education are more important than ever - especially for workers in manufacturing jobs and those just starting out," said Chao.
Chao promised a Labor Department that is more open and welcoming of new ideas. She initiated the development of an interactive web-based compliance tool called E-laws, available on the Department''s Web site. The Web site has also been upgraded to be more user-friendly, with improved access to information and services and a guaranteed rapid response to e-mail inquiries. Chao also announced the formation of an OSHA task force to provide outreach and educate Hispanic workers and their families about health and safety.
by Virginia Foran