At a briefing Monday, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis spoke about the need for more employment opportunities for the 9.1% of Americans out of work and the role government can play in facilitating job creation.

“The priority is to connect with the businesses, so that we’re not training people for jobs that don’t exist, but for jobs that are open,” Solis said, highlighting jobs in the green industry, such as information technology and battery-operated cars as examples of industries that need growing numbers of people. “There are so many people, in terms of unemployed, but the jobs they are seeking might not be available, which tells me we need to start making investments in other fields.”

Solis pointed to the five workers to every one job as reason to retrain workers for specific jobs in areas such as agriculture. She also countered claims that job creation is going too slowly, noting that the economy has added 2.4 million private-sector jobs during the recovery.

However, there’s still a long way to go to replace the 8 million jobs that were lost at the start of Barack Obama’s presidency. To that end, “we need to … have better skilled and better trained individuals so we can compete with other countries.”

Another job creating incentive, the newly proposed veterans tax credit, could help newly returned veterans obtain jobs. In 2010, 14.7% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were unemployed.

“That’s the least we can do, we need to do much more. Many didn’t quite understand that they would be serving for three or four tours and it’s had a devastating impact,” Solis said. Employers hiring a vet returning within six months would get a tax credit of $2,400 and if a vet was unemployed longer, the incentive would be higher. “We need to open up opportunities in the private sector, especially for those that are disabled.”

She also addressed illegal workers who mainly work temporarily and a new program that introduced the H-2A Visa, which allows those workers to work in the United States under certain restrictions. “The H2A program was just revamped to minimize abuse in the workforce so everyone complies and not disadvantaging a competitor that is not paying their taxes,” Solis said.

“Ultimately, more job creation will mean more work on the part of HR professionals, and strengthening companies’ workforces to make a productive workforce. “There is an urgency to create jobs and make communities whole that need this help. If appropriate investments are made, we can bring that industry back. It’s our human capital.”


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