WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama asked U.S. businesses and community colleges Wednesday to unite behind an $8 billion jobs training plan that he said will help improve both education and the job market.
The proposal would fund partnerships between community colleges and businesses to provide 2 million workers with job training and skills.
In releasing his proposed 2013 budget at Northern Virginia Community College, Obama said the partnerships, such as those between community colleges in Charlotte, N.C., and technology corporation Siemens, will help improve both education and the job market.
“We also need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers,” Obama said. “This should be an engine of job growth all across the country, these community colleges, and that’s why we’ve got to support them.”
By providing more training to students, the president said, jobs will stay within the United States instead of moving overseas.
“Employers today are looking for the most skilled, educated workers,” he said. “I don’t want them to find them in India or China.”
According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, students need better skills to compete in high-growth industries, such as clean energy, health care and advanced manufacturing.
“But today, we simply lack the training programs to fully prepare students for jobs employers are looking to fill now,” Duncan said.
To help low-income students, the fund would offer paid internships.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said states and local governments would be able to apply for grants to recruit companies.
According to Solis, it is necessary to train job seekers for positions that are currently open to encourage economic growth in the country.
“Some politicians believe that in this time of fiscal challenge, we can’t afford to invest in American workers,” Solis said. “They’re short-sighted and wrong. America’s future will only be as strong as the industries we create and grow.”
The program would be jointly administered by the departments of education and labor.
The president also announced other funding proposals to make college more affordable and to improve K-12 education, including $100 million for Promise Neighborhoods, an effort to improve schools in “high-need” communities, and a $10 billion campus-based financial aid program for colleges that successfully keep costs down without lowering the value of the education they provide students.
The budget also proposes keeping the student loan interest rates at 3.4 percent.