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The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 aimed to boost the economy and create jobs for a struggling country falling into a recession. A couple of years later, the money is still flowing, but many residents remain unemployed and uneducated as to how the more than $700 billion act can benefit them.
Congresswoman Karen Bass and U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis headlined a Jobs and Economic Recovery Summit on Tuesday at the California Science Center to discuss some of the programs available to the unemployed, and to inform them how to make the available funds work for them.
“We would have lost another three million jobs if that stimulus had not been provided,” Solis said. “People say, ‘well it sounds good but people are still hurting.’ We know that and we want to let people know that there are federal dollars still out there.”
The summit had a panel presentation to show just a few of the ways the stimulus money was being used to help spur job creation and put a dent into unemployment. Solis said that unemployment figures have gone from 10 percent in October to a current level of 8.8 percent, thanks to stimulus jobs.
The panel discussion focused on new “green” job opportunities created by the stimulus act, as well as programs designed to help young people gain employment experience in a variety of fields. Solis expressed the importance of these programs in the wake of recent cuts to the federal budget.
“These cuts have to be done right and in an educational manner to protect our young people, seniors and vulnerable people,” Solis said. “Now is the time not to give up, and to focus right back on where we need to go and making California a strong state and returning ownership to the people.”
Kevin Considine, founder of the Hollywood Cinema and Production Resources (CPR), a non-profit program that trains youth for jobs in the entertainment industry, talked about some of the opportunities young people have had through Hollywood CPR.
“We have had some of our youth work on the sets of ‘Thor,’ ‘Spiderman 4,’ ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘Iron Man 2,’” Considine said. “These are great opportunities for young people to get a foot in the door of the entertainment industry and learn how to do some of the jobs involved with it.”
Bass is well aware of the good Hollywood CPR has done in helping young people find jobs and said it was very important and timely.
“They offer entry level jobs into the entertainment industry, the number one industry in our community,” Bass said. “Those were jobs that were typically passed down from father to son, but now a lot of the sons aren’t interested in those jobs anymore, and the entertainment industry is interested in diversifying their workforce, and I think that is a whole category that some of our young people need to look at.”
The summit also highlighted other ways unemployed individuals could obtain help in finding a job. Solis said that one-stop career centers like WorkSource were a great avenue for people to find work.
The website, www.myskillsmyfuture.org, allows people to input their previous work history and obtain local results for job openings that are in a related field. The website is dedicated to helping laid-off workers and other individuals looking to switch careers to find new occupations based on transferable skills they have gained in past jobs.
Bass also had advice for older individuals who were having trouble finding work or difficulties with finding a new career at an older age.
“The health care industry is an industry where you can get in as a technician without prior experience,” Bass said. “I know that specifically because I worked in health care for a number of years. You can train to be a medical assistant, nurse, etc. and it does not take years of training. Health care is a perfect way for older individuals to change careers with minimal training.”
Solis added that businesses must use all the resources available to keep hiring workers.
“It can’t always come from the federal government,” Solis said. “It has to be us helping each other out. It’s going to take a lot of work on your part because the competition is very fierce.”
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