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President Obama Brings U.S. Education Policy into 21st Century

America’s College Promise and American Technical Training Fund Proposals Create Opportunity for Workers, Respond to Challenges Faced by Employers

National Skills Coalition (NSC) released the following response from CEO Andy Van Kleunen:

Today, President Obama will announce two major proposals intended to increase access to high-quality skills training, including America’s College Promise, an initiative to make two years of community college education free for up to 9 million qualifying students, and new investments in technical training programs through the American Technical Training Fund.

With the proposed America’s College Promise, President Obama is bringing U.S. education and training policy into the 21st century. A century ago, FDR guaranteed access to a high school education for every American. But today’s economy requires a higher baseline of skills for a decent job. Offering everyone a chance to get two years of education or training past high school is an overdue update for our students and working people.

America’s College Promise responds directly to the challenges faced by U.S. employers in finding skilled workers for open positions across a variety of industries, particularly middle-skill positions. The December jobs numbers released today underscore the need to prepare as many people as possible for the skilled jobs being created by the recovering economy.

In addition to America’s College Promise, the President will propose a new American Technical Training Fund with a goal of creating 100 accelerated training partnerships geared to move students and workers quickly toward skilled credentials with immediate value in the labor market. NSC estimates the scale of the proposal as comparable in size to recent discretionary grant initiatives coming out of the Labor and Education departments as part of the Administration’s Job-Driven Training Action Plan.

The scale of this proposal is just a start compared to what is truly needed to move millions of student and workers more quickly toward middle-skill credentials that connect them to good jobs. We hope the same principles that have embodied the Job-Driven Training Action Plan will guide the structuring of the American Technical Training Fund investments. These include a clear focus on employer partnerships, the expectation that a range of organizations are working together to implement these training and employment strategies, true accountability for their impacts on employment and wages, and a priority for ensuring access to a diversity of students and workers.

NSC believes that Tennessee has developed an excellent model for achieving these ends with its community and technical college system, and we applaud the members of the Tennessee congressional delegation—including Senator Alexander (R-TN), the new Chair of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions committee, who is expected to join the President today to recognize the value of the Tennessee approach. National Skills Coalition looks forward to working with both parties in Congress to ensure that both the Technical Training Fund and America’s College Promise can be fully funded and implemented in a manner that builds upon recent bipartisan efforts like the last year’s passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

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National Skills Coalition is a broad-based coalition of employers, unions, education and training providers, and public officials working toward a vision of an America that grows its economy by investing in its people so that every worker and every industry has the skills to compete and prosper.