Obama: Skills and training as valuable as college degree

Promoting the steps his administration is taking to boost job skills training, President Obama on Thursday argued a manufacturing apprenticeship could be more valuable than a degree in art history.

“Nothing wrong with an art history degree,” Mr. Obama joked at a General Electric facility in Waukesha, Wis., near Milwaukee. But, he added seriously, “You can make a really good living and have a great career without having a four-year college education, having the skills and training that you need.”

The president said the youth apprenticeship and adult education programs in Wisconsin -- such as the programs that the GE facility has relied on to train its workers -- should serve as a model for the country and noted that he’s tasked Vice President Joe Biden to conduct a review of federal training programs to find ways to reform them. The president first laid out his executive plans to reform job training programs in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Mr. Obama said the nation should move away from “train and pray” programs that give people skills that may or may not lead to a job. “What we need to do is look at where are the jobs and take a job-driven approach to training,” he said. “That’s what you’re doing here in Wisconsin.”

The administration is also putting the final $500 million of a community college training fund toward a grant competition that will reward partnerships between community colleges and employers.

Restoring opportunity to Americans, Mr. Obama said, is “the defining project of our generation, what we have to tackle right now, what will drive me until I wave goodbye.”

Noting that people in need of job skills don’t have time to wait for Congress, Mr. Obama said of the legislative branch, “I want to work with them, but I can’t wait for them.”

He urged Congress to raise the minimum wage, remarking, “Nobody who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

Later in the day Mr. Obama will travel to Nashville, Tenn. to continue promoting the agenda he laid out in his State of the Union address.