Statement of NSC CEO Andy Van Kleunen on State of the Union Address

March 01, 2022

Amid crisis in Ukraine, speech emphasizes importance of creating better access to skills training for workers and industries who need to hire for in-demand and emerging roles

“Our country faces huge challenges both foreign and domestic. But it was reassuring to hear in tonight’s State of the Union Address that President Biden has not forgotten the need to invest in the futures of millions of US workers and local businesses who are still struggling to find their way in the post-pandemic economy.”

“Although the President was understandably focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, his renewed domestic agenda included a call for expanded skills training and apprenticeships for those most impacted by the pandemic as a key to eliminating barriers to good-paying jobs.”

“Every day, in communities across our nation, workers seek out opportunities to ensure their families can thrive. At the same time, businesses are anxious to hire skilled workers—people trained for jobs in growing industries like healthcare, medical technology, IT and software, and advanced manufacturing—as well as tradespeople like road- and bridge-builders, plumbers who can replace unhealthy water systems, or electricians who can connect an expanded power grid to new energy sources. These jobs require education and training that falls between a high school diploma and a four-year degree. They are the backbone of the American economy, and they depend on a skilled workforce ready to fill them.

Without an aggressive national skills training policy such as that proposed last year by President Biden, these jobs will go unfilled, and workers will be locked out of opportunity. And for those who have been excluded from prosperity in the past—including workers of color, low-wage workers, women and people without a BA—a once-in-a-generation moment will have been lost to rewrite the rules about who gets a chance to succeed in this country.”

“During our recent 2022 Skills Summit, Ambassador Susan E. Rice, Domestic Policy Advisor in the Biden Administration, discussed how we can continue to build back better and work toward an inclusive economic recovery, and Cabinet Secretary Miguel Cardona, U.S. Department of Education, Secretary Gina Raimondo, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Secretary Marty Walsh, U.S. Department of Labor, spoke about what the Administration is doing to provide access to skills training that will allow workers the ability to progress in their careers.”

“Across these discussions and those we’ve had with our partners at community colleges, in the public workforce system, with labor and labor management partnerships, community organizations and businesses across the country it is clear – workers and businesses need public policy to support access to skills training for good jobs and the supports that helps people thrive in training, education and at work. The cost of postsecondary credentials remains a significant barrier to access for many workers and students. President Biden’s emphasis on providing greater tuition assistance to college students—including those at community colleges—is commendable. Additionally, we continue to call on Congress and the Administration to make college work for working people by expanding Pell Grant eligibility to shorter-term workforce-oriented education and training programs.”

“National Skills Coalition is dedicated to mobilizing partnerships like these across the country to advocate for tested skills policy proposals that can help workers lead a better life and help local businesses thrive.”

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