White House Joins in Promoting Community Colleges, Skills

At this afternoon’s White House meeting of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, President Obama will make an announcement about a new jobs-training initiative, “Skills for America’s Future.”

The New York Times previewed the news in a story Saturday, “White House Plans Job Training Partnership“:

The national program is a response to frustrations from both workers and employers who complain that public retraining programs frequently do not provide students with employable skills. This new initiative is intended to help better align community college curriculums with the demands of local companies.

“The goal is to encourage community colleges and other training providers to work in close partnership with employers, to design a curriculum where they want to hire the people coming out of these programs right away,” said Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

As the Times story notes, many such local private-public partnerships already exist around the nation, driven by the community’s educators and civic and business leaders. We’ll be interested in learning what new elements the federal government can bring to these partnerships, perhaps through additional targeted federal funding.

The President appreciates community colleges and often visits campuses for remarks on the economy, and today’s announcement foreshadows The White House Summit on Community Colleges scheduled for Tuesday.  There’s  a website devoted to the event, http://www.whitehouse.gov/communitycollege:

On October 5, 2010 Dr. Jill Biden will chair the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges.  President Obama asked Dr. Biden to convene this event to highlight the critical role that community colleges play in developing America’s workforce and reaching our educational goals.

The summit is an opportunity to bring together community colleges, business, philanthropy, federal and state policy leaders, and students to discuss how community colleges can help meet the job training and education needs of the nation’s evolving workforce, as well as the critical role these institutions play in achieving the President’s goal to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. 

Jill Biden is the wife of the vice president, a community college instructor in English, and she earned a Ph.D. in education (hence the White House’s honorific of “Dr.”).  She anticipates Tuesday’s program in a post at the White House Blog, “Getting Ready For Summit Day.” There’s also a web “toolkit” (.pdf file).

Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary for the Employment and Training Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor, summarizes the Department’s  activities vis a vis community colleges in a blog post, “Community Colleges: The Backbone of Our Public Workforce System.”

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