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Obama touts industry-led initiative for job training

By Tom Cohen, CNN
  • The Skills for America's Future program focuses on community colleges
  • Corporations will work with community colleges on job training
  • The model is similar to another White House education program, the White House says

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama announced another industry-led education initiative Monday, this time intended to ensure that the nation's community college graduates are well-trained for jobs in U.S. industry.

Obama told a meeting of his Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which includes business and labor leaders, that the Skills for America's Future initiative is a common-sense approach to a broader strategy of improving the ability of U.S. students to compete in the global workforce.

"The idea here is simple -- we want to make it easier to connect students looking for jobs with businesses that will hire them," Obama said in remarks at a board meeting at the White House.

A White House statement said the initiative is based on the same concept as the Educate to Innovate campaign, in which corporations develop specific programs to boost the performance of U.S. students in math, science, technology and engineering.

The Skills for America's Future initiative has the backing of corporate leaders including Penny Pritzker, chair and CEO of Pritzker Realty Group, along with Gap Inc., McDonald's, United Technologies and Accenture, according to the White House.

Obama said a Skills for America's Future task force will coordinate federal efforts with corporate partners in the initiative.

"The goal is to ensure there are strong partnerships between growing industries and community college or training programs in every state in the country," Obama said.

He called community colleges one of the nation's most under-valued assets, and repeated his goal of increasing the number of community college degrees and certificates by 5 million by the year 2020.

On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill Biden, will host the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges to "highlight the critical role that community colleges play in developing America's workforce and reaching our educational goals," the White House announced.

The summit will include a session on the Skills for America's Future initiative, according to the White House statement.

Examples of programs in the new initiative include Pacific Gas and Electric's work with community colleges to develop courses and training for energy jobs, professional literacy courses provided by McDonald's for managers across the country, and a pilot job training program in seven cities by Gap Inc., according to the White House statement.