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U.S. Secretary of Labor visits Springfield to meet Oregon's future workforce

Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su.
Tiffany Eckert
Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor, Julie Su, was in Springfield Thursday for a roundtable discussion at the youth innovation hub, Connected Lane County’s SPARK.

It’s not every day that a U.S. cabinet member visits Lane County. Acting Secretary of Labor, Julie Su, was in Springfield Thursday to meet with Oregon’s next generation of workers.

Secretary Su joined a roundtable discussion at the youth innovation hub Connected Lane County’s SPARK where excited students shared their aspirations and very real plans to enter the workforce. Su said she’ll take what she learned back to Washington.

“We talked very concretely today about workforce development,” she said. “That’s squarely within the Department of Labor’s work. And I’m hearing that much of what we’re doing to be more flexible and encourage creativity is working. And I’m hearing that people need more support and more resources. So, we’re just getting started, we’ve got more work to do.”

The cabinet-level official toured the SPARK building at Booth-Kelly, stopping before project stations and talking with STEM student participants. Su was struck by the creativity and innovative spirit of the young inventors.

“One had a cousin who was non-verbal and so she worked with the cousin and decided to invent something that would allow non-verbal children be able to communicate better,” Su said.

Marmy Hernandez Gonzalez, 16, attends Springfield High School and comes to STEM every Tuesday. It is here that she developed the invention noted by Secretary Su.

“It was a project I worked on in the summer—a communication device called Scatter Critter,” Hernandez Gonzalez said. “So our main focus was to do it in schools or speech thera--,” she gently stumbled before stating clearly, “speech therapy. Because I was in speech therapy at one point so I remember using tools to help me communicate.”

Su was accompanied by U.S. Representative Val Hoyle, who represents Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District, which includes Springfield.

Group of people posing for the camera.
Tiffany Eckert
Group of students with U.S. Representative Val Hoyle (far left in dress) and Secretary of Labor Julie Su (center in blue pant suit.)

“What I wanted to show the secretary was how we can use workforce development dollars to provide young people with a pathway to good paying jobs,” Hoyle said. “To help employers fill their workforce needs and to do it in a way that lifts up our labor force and builds upon our strong sense of community.”

Earlier in the day, Su and Hoyle toured the multi-craft union Local 290 and discussed infrastructure investments from the Biden administration. The U.S. Secretary of Labor serves as advisor to the president.

In addition to the Lane County visit, Su's Oregon itinerary included stops in Portland and Hillsboro.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and worked in a variety of media including television, technical writing, photography and daily print news before moving to the Pacific Northwest.