VOL. 124 | NO. 124 | Friday, June 26, 2009
Labor Secretary Touts Green Jobs During Visit
By Bill Dries
GREENING IN MEMPHIS: U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis toured the Sharp Manufacturing plant in Memphis this week where solar energy cells are made. -- PHOTO BY BILL DRIES
U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis toured Sharp Manufacturing Co. this week as she touted a green jobs movement across the country encouraged and supported by training programs.
The plant on South Mendenhall Road works around the clock making solar modules, which it has been doing since 2003.
Solis toured the assembly line Wednesday before announcing the Obama administration will use $500 million in stimulus money to start a series of five grant programs for worker training.
“The middle-class families across America are suffering tremendously,” Solis said. “Many of them don’t have the kinds of salaries and benefits that are provided right here at this facility.”
There already are training programs undertaken by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 474, which represents the workers at Sharp, that involve installing solar panels. The programs possible under the grant program could include training workers to make the panels as well as work in developing green businesses.
“Solar energy, wind energy, water hydro, biofuels – all of these new industries that are popping up are going to help us with our recovery so that our country will be back in a competitive mode,” Solis said.
Community colleges as well as individual work places also could be involved in the training efforts.
One of the grant programs will award money to states to better collect and analyze work force information and direct citizens to jobs in green industries.
The other four grant programs will direct workers to careers in targeted industries, including green energy companies and will help create larger energy sectors in state economies.
The state energy sector partnerships and training grants are the largest share of the $500 million, with $190 million of those grants to be applied for by Oct. 20.
The Sharp Memphis plant opened in 1978 and initially made color televisions, adding the production of microwave ovens two years later. The production of televisions was moved to Mexico nine years ago. Production of the solar modules began shortly after that as the Osaka, Japan-based corporation became one of the world’s leading manufacturers of solar cells.
The 1 millionth solar module came off the production line at the Memphis plant last year.
During her day in Memphis, Solis toured the National Civil Rights Museum as well as the University Place housing development where Crump Boulevard becomes Lamar Avenue. She also included a stop at Mid-South Community College in West Memphis.