Obama orders review of job training programs

President Obama ordered a “soup to nuts” review of federal job training programs at a General Electric engine factory outside of Milwaukee on Thursday, arguing not everyone needed a college degree to have a stable, middle-class job.

The president said that after decades of outsourcing, parents began telling their children that “you don't want to go into the trades, you don't want to go into manufacturing, because you'll lose your job.” As a consequence, Obama said, “a lot of young people no longer see the trades and skilled manufacturing as a viable career.”

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“But I promise you, folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree,” Obama said. (The president later clarified that “there's nothing wrong with art history,” and said he didn't want to get email complaints.)

While in Milwaukee, Obama signed a presidential memorandum directing Vice President Biden to examine how to best reform federal job training programs designed to help American workers learn the skills they need for in-demand jobs. The White House has said Biden's assignment reflects the administration's commitment to the initiative, and Obama heralded his vice president as a man “raised on the value of hard work.”

Obama also announced a competition for a half-billion dollars in federal grants for community colleges to partner with outside employers.

The trip is the latest in a post-State of the Union whistle-stop tour designed to tout some of the executive actions that Obama announced during the address.

Obama also reiterated his calls for Congress to pass equal-pay legislation, arguing that doing so would benefit both men and women.

“When women succeed, men succeed. ... When Michelle's doing good and happy, I'm happy too,” Obama said. “I'm just saying.”

Republicans have criticized the president’s push as little more than window dressing in an election year. A GOP leadership aide on Wednesday noted that the Government Accountability Office had already completed a comprehensive view of the job training programs spread across government agencies.