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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu today discussed the Troops to Energy Jobs initiative led by the Center for Energy Workforce Development at the National Press Club. Secretary Chu recognized the service of U.S. veterans and emphasized the importance of connecting veterans with green jobs.
Thank you, Tom Farrell, for the introduction and for your leadership in helping veterans enter into the energy industry. I also want to recognize Senator Mark Warner, Chairman Ed Whitfield, Tom Kuhn, President of Edison Electric Institute, and all of our distinguished guests for their support of America's armed forces. I especially want to recognize the Edison Electric Institute, the Center for Energy Workforce Development and all of the "Troops to Energy Jobs" partners for their work.
Most importantly, I want to recognize and thank all our citizens who have worn the uniform. America's men and women in uniform serve with courage, honor and dedication every day and keep our country safe and strong.
President Eisenhower once said, "Democracy can never be stronger than the readiness of its citizens to sacrifice for it." Our service men and women have made extraordinary sacrifices, and deserve our enduring gratitude.
As President Obama says, when our men and women in uniform return home, we have a "sacred obligation" to stand by them as they have stood by us. Unfortunately, too many veterans can't find a job when they return home. As was mentioned before, last year the unemployment rate for veterans who served after September 11th was 11.5 percent compared to 9.4 percent for non-veterans.
This isn't good for veterans - or our economy. America's veterans have incredible skills and would benefit the economy. They've served in high-pressure positions with enormous responsibilities. They understand team work. And they've managed complicated logistics and sophisticated equipment. They have experience and skills that are well-suited for energy jobs.
While many veterans are looking for jobs, many energy companies are looking for skilled workers. We need a new generation of workers to fill critical positions like plant operators, line workers, pipefitters, engineers and technicians. The Center for Energy Workforce Development predicts that around half of the technical and engineering workforce in the utility industry will be eligible for retirement by 2015. So this is an opportunity.
We also need workers with the tools and training to meet future energy needs. To compete in the global clean energy race, we'll need to upgrade our electric infrastructure, use energy more efficiently and develop and deploy low-carbon technologies. All of these are job generators. All of these will help America become more competitive in the future.
While traditional energy sources will continue to play an important role, we need to diversify our electricity portfolio to rely on a broad set of energy sources including renewables like wind and solar, natural gas, clean coal and nuclear power. All of this will require skilled workers.
We must seize this opportunity. Today's veterans can serve as the next generation of energy leaders.
The "Troops to Energy Jobs" program will help accomplish this goal. The program will harness the talents of our veterans to strengthen America's energy companies. "Troops to Energy Jobs" will provide veterans with education and training and connect them with the good energy jobs of the 21st century.
The Department of Energy is proud to support this program. The Center for Energy Workforce Development plans to use the Department's National Training and Education Resource to provide on-line access to energy curriculum.
In the coming years and decades, there will continue to be enormous opportunities for job creation and economic growth in America's energy industry.
We are committed to helping Americans get the tools they need to fill good energy jobs. For example, the Energy Department has provided nearly $100 million for smart grid workforce training programs. This includes a project that aims to train and certify 120 veterans for energy management careers. It's a start - but just like this program - it's an important start.
Everyone in this room can agree that a skilled energy workforce is critical to America's national security and economic competitiveness. Connecting veterans to careers in the energy industry is good for them, but it's also good for the energy industry and it's good for the country.
I want to again thank everyone involved with "Troops to Energy Jobs" for their tremendous work. And thank you again to our veterans for their service and sacrifice. Thank you.