President Obama Expands Skills for America's Future Program

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President Obama Expands Skills for America's Future Program
In a bid to boost America’s global competitiveness, President Obama has increased the scope of the “Skills for America’s Future” initiative. Learn about how this impacts community colleges and the future earning potential for its students.

The Skills for America's Future program was introduced by the current administration as a way to match up community college training with fields in need of qualified workers. The idea behind the initiative was to make community college graduates more competitive and marketable in the real world after school and provide industries with highly qualified workers. This month, President Obama announced that Skills for America's Future will expand further, ensuring more community college students get the training they need to find successful, lucrative jobs once their college training is complete.

What is the Skills for America's Future Program?

Last year, President Obama launched an ambitious initiative along with the Aspen Institute, designed to bring companies together with community colleges to produce future workers that would be highly qualified and able to compete in a global market. The movement was dubbed Skills for America's Future, and it began with partnerships between industries and academia that would coordinate the training and build the skills of a qualified workforce in the United States. According to the Aspen Institute website, the initiative would serve as a broad umbrella under which labor unions, corporations, and community colleges could coordinate their efforts to train a new generation of American workers.

From its inception, Skills for America's Future began signing on a number of key players to help the initiative achieve its goals. Some of the leaders that have worked with the Skills for America's Future program since the beginning include Penny Pritzker, CEO of Pritzker Realty Group, and Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. In addition, large companies have also agreed to partner with the program, including Gap, Mcdonald's, and PG&E.

This is a video of President Obama talking about his Skills for America's Future Program.

What does the Initiative Do?

Skills for America has a number of core activities that provide a framework for the organization, including:

  • Recruiting additional leaders in the private sector to participate in the innovative training design
  • Developing partnerships on a national level between corporations, community colleges, and labor unions
  • Providing a national voice on the importance of proper training for workers heading into positions within various industries in this country
  • Sharing knowledge learned through this movement on a grander scale with state, federal, and international leaders

While the original purpose of Skills for America's Future has remained the same, President Obama has recently announced plans to expand the movement even further. The announcement came while the President was touring an automotive training facility at a community college in Virginia, according to a report in the Washington Times. During his tour, President Obama told the Times, "The irony is that even though a lot of folks are looking for work, there are also a lot of companies looking for skilled workers. There's a mismatch that we can close. And this partnership is a great way to do it."

President Obama also explained the expansion in a press release on WhiteHouse.gov, saying, "Last year, we launched Skills for America's Future to bring together companies and community colleges around a simple idea: making it easier for workers to gain new skills will make America more competitive in the global economy. Today, we are announcing a number of partnerships that will help us make this a reality, by opening doors to new jobs for workers, and helping employers find the trained people they need to compete against companies around the world."

This video discusses how the conversation about skills and jobs has changed and the role for Skills for America's Future.

Expanding on a Good Idea

To enhance the efforts of Skills for America's Future, the administration has brought many more key figures to the boardroom, including:

  • Greg Brown, chairman and CEO of Motorola Solutions
  • William D. Green, chairman of Accenture
  • Brad Keywell, co-founder and director of Groupon, Inc.
  • Nick Pinchuk, chairman, and CEO of Snap-on Incorporated
  • David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications
  • Ellen Alberding, president of the Joyce Foundation

Walter Bumphus, CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges

In addition to the many players brought in to work towards the common goals of the initiative, a number of significant partnerships have been formed as well, including:

  • "Boots on the Ground" – This is a collaboration designed to educate local merchants about the value of a NAM-endorsed skills certification program to their business.
  • High School Pathways – This effort serves to prepare students for successful training in community college while they are still in high school.
  • Career Awareness Campaign – This will teach educators and students about the value of proper training and certification to become competitive in the global marketplace.
  • Opportunities for At-Risk Youth – Students that fall into this category will see additional support and guidance through Jobs for America's Graduates.
  • Next Generation Engineering Workforce – This effort is created to help students interested in the engineering field find mentors and scholarships.
  • New Online Tools – These tools include a new career website known as Pipeline, which will provide real-time information on job openings and additional education and training necessary

To achieve these goals, President Obama pledges the following resources:

  • More money (up to $2 billion in additional funding) to train community college students for practical careers after graduation
  • Involvement by the Department of Health and Human Services to expand employment opportunities in the IT health field
  • Assistance by the Department of Labor to accurately outline the skills necessary to land jobs in the manufacturing industry

Skills for America's Future has already shown great promise in helping community college students get the skills necessary to find lucrative, rewarding jobs after graduation. The planned expansions into the project will help even more companies and qualified graduates find the perfect match to reduce unemployment and gain a more competitive workforce for the 21st-century economy.

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