The president and vice president made a rare joint appearance on Wednesday to tout new federal funds for community colleges and apprenticeship programs.
In speeches at the Community College of Allegheny County’s West Hills Center, outside Pittsburgh, President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced $550-million in grants to prepare American workers for in-demand jobs.
The bulk of the money, roughly $450-million, comes from the fourth and final round of competitive grants under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program. That $2-billion program, which was wrapped into the 2010 legislation to overhaul the health-care system, helps two-year colleges train displaced workers for high-skill, high-wage occupations.
Unlike previous competitions in the program, the fourth will give priority—and larger grants—to applicants that seek to scale up best practices through partnerships with national industry groups. It will also reward applicants that aim to "ensure a seamless progression" across the education spectrum, and that commit states to further integrating their employment and education data systems.
In a fact sheet issued on Wednesday, the White House said six national foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation, would provide technical assistance to applicants. Skills for America's Future, which describes itself as "an employer-led policy initiative" that fosters collaboration among educators, job trainers, and employers, will create a website to advise community colleges on how best to team up with employers.
The other $100-million in competitive grants draws from existing Department of Labor funds and would be used to replicate successful apprenticeships and create new ones in high-growth fields. The money could also be used to link apprenticeships to college credit or industry certifications.
Wednesday’s appearance came just over a week after Mr. Biden announced the creation of a consortium of colleges, businesses, and labor leaders that will focus on providing college credit for apprenticeships.
The consortium, which will be jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and of Labor, will help workers enrolled in apprenticeships earn bachelor’s and associate degrees more quickly and at a lower cost, Mr. Biden said. Colleges that join the consortium will agree to provide credit to workers who complete participating programs.
President Obama has charged his vice president with leading an across-the-board reform of the nation’s job-training programs.