As America works towards an economy that's built to last, we must make sure to provide American workers with the skills they need to compete.
If we want to build an economy that makes, creates and innovates; if we want to usher in a new era for American manufacturing and American-produced energy; our students and workers need a good education and strong training.
At USDA, one of our jobs is to help American workers learn the skills they need to be ready to take on the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Our Forest Service operates nearly 30 Job Corps centers that offer training in vocational trades including welding, business technology, computer networking, heavy equipment operations, carpentry, painting, firefighting, and forestry. Last year we trained more than 4,200 students. Ninety percent of them got jobs, joined the military, or went on to further their education.
We also support skills training for Americans looking to start careers in agriculture. In the past years alone we've have supported education and training for 15,000 beginning farmers and ranchers.
USDA also helps support youth programs - like 4H and FFA - that are providing millions of American children with learning opportunities, and teaching them to be citizens and leaders in their communities. And we support education programs in all 50 states focused on science, technology, engineering and math, as well as engineering and agriculture programs at top public universities.
President Obama and I know this is a make or break moment for the middle class. What's at stake is the basic American promise that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, and put a little away for retirement. But we'll never get there if our students and workers aren't up to the jobs of tomorrow.
Over the past weeks, the President laid out his plan for keeping college affordable and within reach for Americans. He called for a new initiative to train and place two million Americans in good jobs through partnerships between businesses and community colleges. And he wants to put veterans to work protecting our communities and preserving our parks, forests and natural resources.
These are important steps, and we're ready to help turn them into action. Because when American workers have the skills they need, we'll keep our promise to the middle class and rebuild an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded. An economy built to last.