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National Skills Coalition responds to State of the Union address

Kermit Kaleba, Federal Policy Director at National Skills Coalition, issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s final State of the Union address:

“For seven years, President Obama has been a skills president. From the critical reemployment and retraining initiatives created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to his signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act revitalizing our nation’s workforce system, he has consistently recognized the value of education and training in supporting economic growth and shared prosperity. He’s articulated a strong vision for making sure that federal training programs are job-driven and accountable for results, and backed that up with transformative investments to expand apprenticeship, community college partnerships, and other proven strategies.”

“Last night he built on this record by renewing his America’s College Promise proposal, which would support two years of postsecondary education and training for all Americans.”

“National Skills Coalition strongly supports the President’s goal to ensure that U.S. workers and businesses can get the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy, and we urge Congress and the Administration to work together to build on this proposal.  Not only would this kind of skills guarantee better reflect the changing realities and demographics of today’s students, it would help to close the skills gap. Middle skill jobs that require more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree make up 54% of jobs in the US economy – but only 44% of US workers are trained to the middle skill level, and employers struggle to fill open positions.”

“At a minimum, we must work to ensure that today’s students – including the 26 percent of students who are working full-time while enrolled – have access to financial aid to help them obtain postsecondary credentials, including short-term occupational training programs that can support employment and career advancement. We also call on Congress to build on the Administration’s College Scorecard to help consumers make informed decisions by improving postsecondary data collection, performance metrics, and reporting to show whether programs are adequately preparing students for successful careers.”

"We also urge the President and Congress to support stronger investments in the skills of the American workforce through apprenticeship and other work-based learning strategies which connect people to work while they learn. Apprenticeships and other kinds of job-driven training help employers develop skilled employees, and increase opportunities for working people to find employment or advance in their careers. President Obama and Congress can and should work together to make apprenticeship programs accessible to small- and medium-sized businesses.”

Finally, we urge President Obama and Congress to recognize the value of partnerships between unions, community colleges, community-based organizations, businesses, workforce boards and other stakeholders who have the tools and expertise to help a broad range of students and workers succeed.

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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.