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Today, President Obama announced 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. Read our brief analysis of these proposals.
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.
When National Skills Coalition launched Skills2Compete in 2007, we joined with thousands of you – businesses, unions, community based organizations, community colleges and others – in calling for a "two year skill guarantee" that would bring the U.S. in line with many of our international competitors and create opportunity for millions. In over a dozen states, you launched Skills2Compete campaigns that continued to lift up this message. The President's proposal brings us significantly closer to this vision.
While we’re excited by this proposed two-year guarantee, we hope that it can be extended to working people who can only go to school less than half-time while holding down a job and supporting their families. They need just as much access to this exciting skills guarantee as students who are able to go to college half- or full-time. We also continue to support the administration in its efforts to recognize the important role of partnerships – in which colleges, community-based organizations, labor unions, workforce boards and others work together, each bringing distinctive expertise to the needs of particular workers or industries – in order to help the broadest range of students succeed.
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.
National Skills Coalition looks forward to working with all of you and 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.
Thanks to all of you for everything you’ve done to build momentum and will for these proposals.
Andy Van Kleunen
CEO, National Skills Coalition