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Former Labor Secretary Weighs In On San Diego’s Jobs Future

— Cities like San Diego cannot wait for the federal government to provide the investment and action needed to spur significant job growth. That’s what former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich told attendees of the Workforce Partnership’s annual summit at Qualcomm Hall in Mira Mesa Thursday morning.

“You, working together, can do things that the federal government can’t do, and won’t do,” Reich said. “And, you can be a beacon light really for the rest of the country.”

Reich, who served as labor secretary under Bill Clinton, suggested investing in early childhood education and building reemployment programs modeled on Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration as ways to spur growth.

The “public sector, private sector, not-for-profits, coming together and showing how WPA-style jobs can be created for people who are long-term unemployed, who desperately need to get back into the workforce,” he said, “This would be a fabulous thing to work on here in San Diego.”

It will take workers with more money to spend, Reich argued, to provide the confidence businesses need to amp up production and their own hiring.

In response to Reich’s address, a panel of area academic, business and labor representatives painted pictures of what they see in San Diego’s job market future. Many focused on the need to prepare San Diegans for green and biotech jobs expected to flourish here in coming years.

“We have to have an education and training system that is getting people ready for the next job, the technology, the next opportunity and we don’t have that,” said Mary Walshok, dean of University Extension at University of California San Diego.

Over the next 10 years, the technology, health and service industries are expected to provide many of the region’s new jobs, according to the state’s office of employment development.

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