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November 27, 2014

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Connecting ready-to-work Americans, ready-to-be-filled jobs

Almost six years after the worst financial crisis in generations, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months. Manufacturers are hiring again, and overall, there’s more work available now than at any time since 2007. For the first time in more than a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that the No. 1 place to invest isn’t China — it’s the United States.

But opportunity for all means that as even as we’re creating more jobs, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill them.

Not every job that’s a good job out there needs a four-year degree, but the ones that don’t need a college degree generally need some sort of specialized training. So last week, we took two big steps to make sure every American has the chance to learn skills that lead directly to jobs in growing industries like manufacturing, information technology, energy and health care.

First, in 2011 we called on Congress to reauthorize one of the most important job-training laws in our country, and last week members of Congress worked through their differences to answer that call and got the bill to the president’s desk. The law will give communities more certainty to invest in job-training programs and build on what we know works — more partnerships with employers, more tools to measure performance, and more flexibilities for states and cities to run their workforce programs in ways that are best suited for them.

Second, we released an across-the-board review of America’s training programs to make sure that they have one mission: Train Americans with the skills employers actually need, then match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.

A lot of ideas in the report came from governors and mayors of both parties, business and industry leaders, and community college presidents and labor unions. It’s a roadmap forward for investing in new strategies and innovations to help American workers keep pace with a rapidly changing economy — from testing new, faster ways of teaching skills like coding, cybersecurity and welding, to giving at-risk youths the chance to learn on the job.

The report will also make sure we use existing investments and programs in a smarter way, so workers earn skills that employers are looking for right now. And it will ensure transparency: Training programs that use federal money will be required to make public how many of its graduates find jobs and how much they earn — so folks will know in advance if they can expect a good return on their investment.

Right here in Nevada, Nevada Partners is providing workforce development, financial literacy and home-buying assistance to help residents of Southern Nevada find good jobs and provide for their families. Through the partnership of employers, public workforce officials and organizations throughout the community, participants are receiving on-the-job experience, skills development and technical training that will help them get ahead.

Both of these steps will connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs. They are a win for America’s workers, for the middle class and for all those fighting to earn their way into the middle class.

But we need to see even more of that bipartisanship spirit to continue expanding opportunity for all — to make college more affordable, to raise the minimum wage, to ensure women receive fair pay, to reward companies for bringing jobs home instead of shipping jobs overseas, and to fix our immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders and our businesses.

We know that America is full of men and women who work hard and live up to their responsibilities. We’ve met them across the country — a working mother in Minnesota who retrained at a community college to go from a job waiting tables to a career as an accountant; women in Detroit who knew little about computer programming four months ago but who will soon become coders making a decent living they once thought was impossibly out of reach.

All they — and millions of other Americans — want is to see their hard work pay off and their responsibility rewarded. They want to work. They want to provide for themselves and their families. And we’re fighting every day to give them that chance.

It’s what we need to do more of, together, as we restore opportunity for all.

Barack Obama is president and Joe Biden is vice president of the United States.

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