President pushes manufacturing job training
President Obama observing the Automotive Training Program at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, VA Wednesday. (photo: Pool)
June 8th, 2011
04:33 PM ET

President pushes manufacturing job training

Washington (CNN)–In a town where the unemployment rate is just above the national average, Louisville, KY native Jason Koerner counts himself lucky to be able to offer his students a pathway to a career.

The part time community college instructor steers a lot of his students to "Big Brown" or UPS, one of the city's largest employers that has also provided a training pipeline to the community.

"The program speaks for itself," Koerner told CNN. "It's pretty alluring." That program is a public-private partnership that UPS developed back in the 1990's. Its cornerstone is Metropolitan College which trains skilled workers, tuition free, and in return students work the overnight shift at UPS's big Next Day Air Operation headquarters in Louisville.

Expanding America's manufacturing workforce is the latest push by the Obama administration that is struggling with a sluggish economy and worsening unemployment numbers. Wednesday, the president took his message to Northern Virginia Community College to announce an expansion of a program aimed at training a half million community college students with specialized manufacturing skills.

"Lighting a spark; that's what community colleges can do," the president said. "That's what learning a new skill or training in a new field can do."

The program called "Skills for America's Future" is basically a public-private partnership whereby community colleges work with business and government to develop "industry-recognized credentials" to educate students. It's similar to the UPS program which itself is now part of the president's initiative.

In addition to the community college training program, the president announced a high school curriculum and an internet site where workers can see how their skills match to job openings across the country.

"The irony is even though a lot of folks are looking for work, there are a lot of companies that are actually also looking for skilled workers," Mr. Obama told students and business leaders Wednesday in Alexandria, VA. "There's a mismatch that we can close. And this partnership is a great way to do it."

Once upon a time manufacturing was king in America. Not so much anymore. In 1979 manufacturing was the number one job sector in the country. Today it has dropped to fifth.

Still, even with manufacturing growth at its slowest pace in two years, Georgetown University economist Anthony P. Carnevale warns not to write it off. "It's sort of a forgotten giant in the American economy."

Carnevale who is the Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce says American manufacturing employs about 14 million people. "You've got the biggest industry in the room. It's declining but remember it's big and there are a lot of job openings."

Manufacturing has declined but not because jobs have gone overseas. Carnevale says it's because productivity and technology have become so efficient. Despite that, he says there is opportunity in manufacturing due to the aging workforce where an estimated 2 million or more workers are expected to retire in the next decade.

The Obama administration wants to seize that opportunity. “We are in a tough fight,” the president said Wednesday. “We've been in a tough fight over the last two and a half years to get past a crippling recession, but also to deal with the problems that happened before this recession - the fact that manufacturing had weakened, the middle class was treading water. I don't think the answer is for us to turn back.”

In Louisville, Jason Koerner says he will continue to recommend his students to the UPS training program. Koerner was one of the first graduates of the program and today continues to work at UPS mentoring new students. "We have been able to reach out to students in virtually all 120 counties in Kentucky [and provide] educational attainment in a state that had been challenged by that in the past," said Koerner.

"It changed my career plan," he says.

Topics: Economy • President Obama

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soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. XWngLady

    Why did it take CNN so long to write a full-length story about this...yet stories about "fear about another great depression" and "Is it time to start thinnking about double-dip recession" were up all day?

    June 8, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • John

      Does anyone pay attention? We are training people in specific fields where there are no jobs. This is not new. Do you know how many computer techs were put out of work because of specific skills they had because they went through specific skills training?
      This administration spends money had over fist touting it as something new and inexperienced people not only buy this crap they try to sell it to others.
      GM Training – really? Has anyone looked at their sales lately? The current score is about 17 billion in the red to the American people for the so called successful auto bailout – and the stocks are still falling.

      June 9, 2011 at 7:09 am |
  2. Jotunn

    It's better to be consistently alarmist, in my opinion. People might feel more pressured to work toward fixes. Constant good news can make people jaded about the bad news, since it would seem like an anomaly. It gets bumped down in mental priority and quickly goes out of mind.

    June 8, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  3. jean2009

    I think the problem is that the unemployed work force is not pushing hard enough for jobs retraining programs. People will need to accept the fact that many of them who no longer can find jobs in manufacturing need to retrain for other fields. We need a jobs education bill.

    June 8, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  4. maikl

    Obama need training . He is naive and i want my vote back.He is not president, he is like many, many , ...many. America lost 4 years.

    June 8, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  5. Notfooled

    At least President Obama goes out and looks for opportunities for job creation, which will increase revenue for the country if people are working and not collecting unemployment. The opposite is true for Republicans who want to make deep cuts in spending which will lose more jobs , create more unemployment, and decrease revenue for the country. The question is which side do you want to be on. Remember if money is not spent for innovation there will be no new jobs.

    June 8, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • John

      So your belief is that governmnet spending creates jobs? And taking money from people who actually work to provide it to people who don't is a good thing?

      June 9, 2011 at 7:16 am |
      • jean2009

        Yes, and Roosevelt proved the theory works.

        June 9, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Mark In Wichita

      Government can old create government jobs with tax payer money. Corporations and businesses create jobs! This administration needs to make policy decisions that the business decision makers see as easying risk in the economy. Just the opposite is what this administration is doing.

      June 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  6. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Do you hear that whinners and haters? Truth is power! Thanks Notfooled!

    June 8, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • John

      Because people question things does not make them haters or "whiners". Truth is power – but just because a person that is supposed to be in power says it does not make it true. Stop watching CNBC, or at least watch several other channels and read more.
      Don't you think it is a little strange that the day the president touts this CNBC is hosting people who lead skills training? This happens all of the time – CNBC gets their marching orders directly from people who are trying to create policy in this country. Take the blinders off.

      June 9, 2011 at 7:15 am |
      • jean2009

        What and listen to that paragon of truth Faux Myth, who think the last 30 years of the failed Taft trickle down "voodoo economics" that Reagan, Bush 1 and Bush 2 used to run us into another Hoover depression hasn't done enough damage already?

        If that failed theory worked, we would currently have surplus jobs and zero unemployment....and everyone would be independently wealthy. That horse has been beat to death as theories go. Hoover promised a chicken in every pot and a car in every's that economic theory working out for you? I have a pretty good notion about who is wearing the blinders.

        June 9, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  7. Mark In Wichita

    "Economic depression cannot be cured by legislative action or executive pronouncement", (December 1930, Message to Congress by president Hoover) and "I need not recount to you that the world is passing through a great depression", (1931).

    June 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  8. Alex in Asia

    What I can say is this was headed our way for a long time. After the company moved to Asia they were about to lay me off. I was not going to settle for that so I followed them! Since then we have been over here for 5 years + and love every second of it.

    Great lifestyle (have to get used to it) but myself being ex military I traveled overseas for years, the great thing is sunny weather,beaches warm climate, western lifestyle not at western prices and relaxed surroundings, yes I had to give up a lot of things, however faced with the situation given. People are running for the hills (no the airport)

    In closing this budget mess is going to stick around for years, I would suggest new grads find overseas recruiters and go. That is the best option for us now, also Asia and northern Europe has some of the best economies going now so food for thought...

    June 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm |