Obama pushes public-private partnerships

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Fresh off another round of grim economic news, President Barack Obama unveiled new efforts to strengthen ties between community colleges and manufacturers during a stop in Alexandria Wednesday. 

Speaking at the citys Northern Virginia Community College campus, the president called for the creation of standardized skill certifications in cooperation with the manufacturing industry. Community colleges can adopt the new standards as part of their curriculum, helping shepherd future workers into good jobs, Obama said. 

Too often students invest in skills and trades not in demand, while manufacturers struggle to fill jobs with well-trained workers, he said. 

Were going to make it possible for 500,000 [workers] to get industry-accepted credentials for manufacturing jobs companies across America are looking to fill, Obama said. Theres a mismatch that we can close and this partnership is a great way to do it. If youre a company looking to hire, youll know exactly what kind of training goes into a degree … [As a student, you] will be able to know the diploma you earn will be valuable as you hit the job market.

Obama met with students and teachers in NVCCs automotive training program prior to his mid-morning speech, touring the community colleges classrooms and labs. The certification standards heralded by the president were modeled after those already employed at the Alexandria campus.

Once in place, the standards can be applied in high schools across the country, giving younger students a chance at a jump-start, Obama said.

As well as the creation of nationwide certification standards, Obama also announced a new website, called Pipeline, pairing job listings with the required educational background.

The Obama administrations Skills for Americas Future initiative is spearheading the effort, which the president claimed will strengthen the middle class and the economy. Forging a highly trained workforce will lower unemployment while fueling the manufacturing sectors growth, Obama said.

The fact is, we understand what it takes to build a stronger economy, he said. Above all, it requires training and educating our citizens to compete with workers across the world.

The presidents trip to Alexandria comes just days after the release of a report showing a sharp decline in job growth in May. Unemployment remains at 9.1 percent nationally and Obamas poll numbers on the economy have begun to slide. Republican presidential hopefuls, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, have tried to turn the dour economy into an early campaign issue.

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