Labor Secretary Salis Visits City; Helping to Get the Country on Track

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis lined up with officials of CONNECT for a photograph during her visit to Chelsea Tuesday afternoon. Shown above, from left to right are: Linda Rohrer, Director Career Source; Juan Vega, Director, Centro Latino; Marissa Guananja, Director, Connect; The Honorable Hilda Solis, Secretary of U.S. Department of Labor: Charlene Bauer, Vice President, Metro Credit Union; Chris Norris, Director, Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, Bob Van Meter, Program Director, LISC (Local Initiative Support Corporation).

US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis came to Chelsea late Tuesday afternoon. The first Hispanic Labor Secretary from East Los Angeles appointed by President Barack Obama – and a former congressman – met with about 100 members of the Chelsea Latino business community as well as other local officials.

With brief remarks which were well received, she detailed what her department is all about, indicating that her duty was not to create jobs, but to connect people who don’t have jobs with openings that exist, among other duties.

“My job is about bringing people together,” she said. “Everything we are trying to do, everything we need to do is about getting this country on track. This requires that my department aid in identifying workforce training possibilities,” she added.

“And that is about bringing people together,” she said.

Many of those in attendance at the meeting, which was held at 4 Gerrish Avenue inside the offices of The Neighborhood Developers, are members of  CONNECT a new collaboration of six community organizations which have come together to offer, under one roof, a whole spectrum of services designed to help individuals and families develop and meet employment and financial goals.

As the term suggests, those in need of skill development in order to find a new job or advance in the one they already have are connected to community based organizations and businesses that can help bolster skills.

While working on skills, participants are also connected to other financial literacy training, which will ultimately allow a successful participant to learn how to grow and retain assets, from a simple bank account to major investments, like a home or a retirement savings plan.

Connect received partial funding from the US Department of Labor. Secretary Solis said the organization had tremendous appeal and reach and tended to give people hope.

“We’re not just giving out grants. We are reforming and determining how we better serve our clients. I’ve seen communities retool themselves. The Labor Department is not a barrier. We’re here to work with you, to connect you with junior colleges who are best able to train people for jobs that are now available,” she added.

Salis said that next week, unemployment statistics will be released.

“We report unemployment. We also protect workers. And we specialize in workforce placement. We know there is pessimism out there but I am not pessimistic. I am expecting great things to happen.”

What is particularly unique about CONNECT is that it is one stop shopping.  In today’s busy world, few have the time or ability to visit six different locations to access the resources that are out there and available.  Additionally, those offering the resources do not always interact with each other, which is important in terms of filing gaps in services or stacking resources together to provide for even greater results.  CONNECT connects people and organizations in order to maximize the opportunities that job seekers have and resources that providers can offer.

Secretary Salis said CONNECT was innovation at its best. She lauded the program and urged everyone attending the meeting to get involved.

“I’m here to work with you,” she said. “I’m a big fan of apprenticeship programs,” she added.

CONNECT supplies traditional workforce development and employment support from Career Source, Centro Latino and Bunker Hill Community College in coordination with asset development and housing services from The Neighborhood Developers, Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership and Metro Credit Union.

Secretary Salis is one of 7 children who grew up in East Los Angeles, who worked her way through college and who has fought and struggled for much of her life to achieve success. Her parents were immigrant laborers when they came to this country.

She told the audience that one of her greatest achievements was being named a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage winner and that she had been nominated for it by the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

She was appointed by President Barack O’Bama as Secretary of Labor in 2009.

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