Obama to tout $600M job training effort

 

President Obama will announce $600 million in government job training initiatives Tuesday in Pennsylvania, as the White House again looks to break through news coverage of the Ukraine crisis to highlight its work on the economy.

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During a visit to a western Pennsylvania community college, Obama will announce that the Department of Labor is accepting completive bids for $500 million in federal funding intended to help community colleges and employers develop training programs.

The White House says it wants to fund programs that help community colleges partner with national industry organizations. Ideally, the programs would train students to earn industry-recognized credentials — like networking certifications for information technology workers — that could give employers confidence that individuals were qualified for complex, high-paying jobs.

A senior administration official said that such programs created a "straightforward path" for prospective employees, since those making hiring decisions could see and validate explicitly what qualifications candidates had.

Another senior administration official said educational institutions were struggling "given the pace of technology and innovation" in the modern economy, and that training programs needed to adapt in concert with businesses.

The president will also announce $100 million in grants to fund apprenticeship programs, using money from the H1-B visa program. The grants will sponsor apprenticeships in emerging fields where employers are struggling to find qualified candidates, including IT, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.

Administration officials say that 87 percent of apprentices today are offered a job, and normally at a starting salary of $50,000.  

Vice President Biden will also be on hand at the announcement. In the State of the Union, Obama tasked Biden with completing a comprehensive review of government job training programs, and administration officials said the programs grew out of his conversations with state and local officials, as well as college presidents and business leaders.

House Republicans dismissed the president's event, with a top Republican aide pointing out that the House had already passed legislation that would streamline dozens of overlapping federal job training programs to make them more effective.

Republicans also noted that the Government Accountability Office also conducted a study in 2011 to review job training programs, suggesting Biden's work was redundant.