IAM News

Obama Announces Community College Plan

Wed. July 15, 2009

President Obama is calling for 5 million new college graduates by 2020 – the highest graduation rate in the world. And, he’s proposing a $12 billion community college program to help make it happen.

The president says the new American Graduation Initiative is part of his plan to put the country on the road to economic recovery.

“Time and again, when we placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered as a result,” said the president during a speech at Macomb Community College in Warren, MI, focusing on education and jobs. Michigan’s unemployment rate of 14.1 percent is currently the highest in the country, thanks to the state’s struggling auto and auto parts industry.

“Some of the jobs that have been lost in the auto industry and elsewhere won’t be coming back. They’re the casualties of a changing economy,” the president said. “That only underscores the importance of generating new businesses and new industries to replace the ones that we’ve lost, and preparing our workers to fill the jobs they create.”

The president’s speech comes on the heels of a Council of Economic Advisers’ report which found that jobs requiring at least an associate degree will grow twice as fast as those only needing a high school diploma.

Obama says the program includes grants aimed at encouraging community colleges to design new innovative programs and curriculum, funds to develop new online courses and $2.5 billion for new construction and renovation. Spending is expected to begin early next year.

“It’s encouraging to see our president emphasizing the importance of education and skills,” says IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “For years, the IAM has been shouting from the rooftops that America’s edge is our skills and our children. And this initiative recognizes that fact.

“Our hope is that in an effort to move our country forward, that same thinking can be crafted into a larger, more holistic, program aimed at creating jobs now rather than later, while at the same time prepare our workforce for the future,” concluded Buffenbarger. “The Machinists will continue our call for a stimulus package targeting the areas in which many of the men and women taking part in the president’s new community college initiative will be looking for work after graduation – the manufacturing and transportation sectors. What good is a highly-skilled pipe fitter or maintenance mechanic if there aren’t any jobs for that person to fill once they’ve received that quality education?”