WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama called for $5.5 billion in "first job" funding to connect young adults with jobs and skills training to start their careers, nearly doubling last year's budget request to bridge the gap for those who are out of school and unemployed.
The 2017 budget proposal is aimed at connecting more than 1 million young adults to first jobs over the summer and year-round, the White House said. It would also create a new $2 billion competitive grant program to re-connect youth to educational and workforce pathways.
The proposal comes as a growing number of college graduates are unemployed and underemployed after spending thousands on higher education, and high school graduates are increasingly looking to skills and career training as an alternative to college. At the same time, unpaid student loan debt has reached $1.3 trillion with about $103 billion in default.
"The president is also calling on businesses to take action to give young Americans with limited resumes a better shot in the hiring process by providing internships, training, mentoring and job interviews to young people who are not in school or working," the White House said. "With more than 5 million jobs open today -- near the highest levels on record -- developing the workforce of the future will be critical for businesses to grow, compete for new markets and innovate."
Included in the proposals:
- $3.5 billion to create new business and community partnerships to provide first jobs for some 1 million young people over the summer and 150,000 young adults who have been out of school and work up to a year.
- $200 million to develop and expand youth apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs as part of a broader $2 billion proposal to create an Apprenticeships Training Fund that will increase resources for state apprenticeship programs.
The White House said the president's proposal also works to help employees keep pace with the changing labor market. That includes creating $40 million in Workforce Data Quality Grants to upgrade state data systems to produce information on the outcomes of training programs.
"The 21st century American worker faces an increasingly complex and dynamic job market. Globalization, automation, and technological innovation are driving rapid changes in available jobs and demanded skills. The president is proposing a plan to ensure that our education and training systems do more to help workers keep pace as the labor market evolves," the White House said.