Obama Says Improving Job Training Key to More Growth

President Barack Obama used the backdrop of a General Electric Co. plant in Wisconsin to highlight the need for better job training to ensure companies can continue to expand manufacturing capacity.

Obama, expanding on plans he laid out in his Jan. 28 State of the Union address, said Vice President Joe Biden will lead a review of federal job-training programs to ensure the skills they teach meet the demand of employers. He said he’s also setting aside $500 million for community colleges, rewarding them for creating the best job-driven training partnerships with employers and industry.

“We got a lot of programs, but not all of them are doing what they should be doing” to train people for jobs, Obama said in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Obama spoke hours after the Commerce Department reported that the world’s largest economy expanded at a 3.2 percent pace in the fourth quarter, following a 4.1 percent advance in the previous three months. He said the economy’s growth, while a positive sign that the recovery is accelerating, hasn’t been evenly distributed.

“Most folks’ wages haven’t gone up in over a decade,” Obama said. There are “too many Americans working harder than ever just to get by.”

Republican Reaction

The Republican leadership of the House responded to Obama’s remarks in a letter to the president today, saying Biden’s review of job-training programs isn’t needed because the Government Accountability Office just completed one on Jan. 28.

The letter, signed by House Speaker John Boehner and the three other Republican leaders in the chamber, also cited legislation passed by the House in March, “which would consolidate the myriad of federal job training programs to focus resources on the programs that work, more closely link employment training to available jobs.”

They urged Obama to press Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, to act on the House-passed bill “so that we may resolve any differences that exist” so it could become law by the end of February.

Obama’s trip to GE’s Gas Engines manufacturing facility in the southeastern part of the state marked the second day of travel outside Washington to reinforce the goals he outlined in the State of the Union message. Yesterday, he rolled out a retirement savings plan at a steel plant outside Pittsburgh. Later today, he is scheduled to talk about education in Nashville, Tennessee.

While at the GE plant, Obama signed an executive order initiating the review of job-training programs. It will involve representatives of companies as well as labor leaders and administration officials, according to a White House fact sheet.

It will include improving metrics to judge the effectiveness of jobs programs and distributing information to give prospective workers a better idea of job demand and skills required, the White House said.

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