My First Job: Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis

Today, on the train up to Philadelphia for the announcement of the Summer Jobs+ bank, I had the chance to think about my first summer job and what it meant to me and my family.

I grew up in a modest neighborhood just outside of Los Angeles. It was an industrial community of blue-collar, working people… some of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met.

My parents raised me and my six siblings with little money … but lots of love. And the same could be said for the other kids in the neighborhood. We didn’t have much. But we had each other. So to get ahead, we had to work twice as hard, and to find a summer job, we sometimes had to look twice as hard.

In my teens, I worked as an aide in my community supervising and mentoring youth in various programs and delivering lunches to needy students.  I also spent a summer working in a library—stacking and cataloging books and helping my classmates select books to read.

I remember feeling very important.

I also remember the dignity that came with that first paycheck.

I met role models during those jobs that helped me become the first member of my family to go to college. And they helped put me on a lifelong career path. I began working with children.  Then I helped high school graduates apply to college and get financial aid. From there, I was elected to the Rio Hondo Community College Board in Whittier, the California Assembly and eventually Congress.

And I wouldn’t be the nation’s first Latina Secretary of Labor—if it wasn’t for the summer work experiences I had growing up.

That’s what summer jobs can do for young people—especially in underserved communities. So keeping summer jobs programs alive and well isn’t just part of my job now, it’s personal.

The future of our country depends so much on the skills and experience we give our youth, so in the toughest of times we need to continued to make summer jobs a priority. That’s what this administration did through the Recovery Act and what we’re continuing to do through the Summer Jobs+ initiative.

So I was thrilled to announce the launch of the Summer Jobs+ Bank. Together with our partners—and with the help of online job sites big and small—this online job search tool will connect young people to summer opportunities near them. Whether you’re looking for a job at the store around the corner from home—or at a national park states away—there’s now have one place to start.

In addition to traditional job opportunities, the Summer Jobs+ Bank also features innovative online training programs like Code Academy, and job shadowing and mentorship opportunities from non-profit groups like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Better yet, the bank can be easily embedded into the existing website of any company, municipal government or community organization. But we aren’t stopping there.

A few weeks ago we launched the first-ever “White House Code Sprint”—challenging software developers to build their own applications using the Summer Jobs+ Bank. What we got back was pretty amazing.

Whether it’s the “PocketJobs app” that puts the Summer Jobs+ Bank on your phone, or “Trabaja Friends,” which allows you recommend Summer Jobs through Facebook, these apps are going to help countless young people find opportunities this summer.

So I encourage companies who want to get involved to do so. With just a few clicks, your job opportunities can be included in the bank, and in these tools too.

Young people need the hands-on training that comes with a summer job. They need to know how to dress for success and nail job interviews. But most of all, they need mentorship, guidance, and inspiration.  

They need to know that we care. I know because I’ve been there.


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Hilda Solis is the Secretary of the Department of Labor
Related Topics: Economy, California
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