Obama Will Unveil High-Tech Training Program to Boost Wages

President Barack Obama on Monday unveiled an initiative to connect companies with local governments to train technology workers as part of an effort to deal with wage stagnation.

The program, called TechHire, is designed to provide training and job placement in fields like software development, network administration and cybersecurity, according to the White House. The administration also is planning to provide $100 million in grants to fund new approaches to training low-skilled workers as part of the program.

“Too many Americans think that these jobs are out of their reach, that these jobs are only in places like Silicon Valley or that they all require an advanced degree in computer science,” Jeff Zients, director of the White House National Economic Council, said on a conference call with reporters on Monday. “That’s just not the case.”

Government employment data released Friday showed that while the U.S. is adding positions at the fastest pace since the 1990s, wages have failed to match that growth, falling short of analysts’ expectations.

Jobs requiring information technology skills offer salaries that are about 50 percent higher than other positions in the private sector, Obama said Monday at a meeting of the National League of Cities in Washington. Not all such jobs require a four-year degree.

“They’re a ticket into the middle class,” Obama told a crowd of about 2,000 at the meeting of the group that advocates for the nation’s municipalities. “This is an economic development issue.”

Company Commitments

The White House has secured commitments from more than 300 companies and local governments in more than 20 regions to participate in the program. Companies including Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and LinkedIn Corp. have agreed to provide free technology training to low-income residents. Cities including Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and San Antonio have agreed to participate in the initiative.

The $100 million grant will be funded by a user fee paid by employers using the H-1B visa program to recruit high-skilled foreign workers.

The U.S. added 295,000 workers to payrolls last month, and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.5. percent, the Labor Department said Friday. Average hourly earnings increased 0.1 percent from the previous month.

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