NORTH FAYETTE (KDKA/AP) – Urging the U.S. to keep up in the global skills race, President Barack Obama on Wednesday highlighted $600 million in new job-training grants that he said could help people land well-paying jobs.
Obama joined Vice President Joe Biden and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker at CCAC’s West Hill Center in North Fayette, where the president declared that anyone willing to put in the effort should have opportunities and job training available to them.
“Earlier this year, I asked Joe to work with Penny Pritzker and Tom Perez, our Labor Secretary, to lead an across the board reform of all of our federal training programs to make sure they have one clear mission, train American’s with the skills employers need, not something that looks good on paper but doesn’t give you a job. Find out what are the jobs that need to be filled, and make sure folks are being trained and matched to those good jobs,” Obama said.
He said manufacturing jobs are coming back in the U.S., but the nation must make a choice about whether it’s willing to do what’s necessary to train its workforce for those jobs.
“We sometimes sound like a broken record because we’ve been talking about this for six, seven, eight years, ever since we’ve been in public office,” Obama said. “But it’s more urgent than ever now that we move forward.”
Not all of today’s good jobs require a four-year college degree, Obama said. But he said there are no jobs that will pay a lot without specialized training.
“Our best bet is keeping ahead in the skills race, and you see what happens when we put effort into making sure workers have new skills,” said Obama.
The larger of the two grant programs will put nearly $500 million toward a job training competition run by the Labor Department that is designed to encourage community colleges, employers and industry to work together to create training programs that are geared toward the jobs employers need to fill. Applications will be available starting Wednesday.
The Labor Department is also making an additional $100 million available for grants to reward partnerships that expand apprenticeship programs.
“We’re here to show how we can help more people find a path to good-paying jobs, middle-class jobs in high-growth industries, from information technology, energy, advanced manufacturing, health care – it’s not just in manufacturing,” said Biden, who has been tasked by Obama with leading a top-to-bottom review of federal job training programs.
President Obama also singled out the Pittsburgh area in his speech.
“There’s been great progress in this area. You’ve earned a great nickname ‘Roboburgh’ ‘cause you’ve got high-tech plants and workplaces that are adding jobs faster than workers can fill them,” he said. “That’s a good problem to have.”
Obama and Biden also toured the campus and met with some local people.
“Our West Hills site is known for its workforce development. We do some very innovative programming. We have a new initiative in mechatronic, automotive technology, a variety of trades, plumbing, electricity, and HVAC. Each of these skills allows our students to get hands-on skills, go out and do apprenticeships, internships to enhance their readiness and prepare for going into business for themselves or working in some of the newest industries across the state,” CCAC President Dr. Quintin Bullock said.
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