Obama touts job training in Wisconsin, education in Tennessee

Jan. 30, 2014 at 10:39 PM
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NASHVILLE, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama, speaking Thursday at McGavock Comprehensive High School in Nashville, said all children should have access to pre-Kindergarten.

The president said his administration will "bring business leaders from all across the country and philanthropists from all across the country who are willing to help work with school districts, mayors, governors to make sure more young people every single year are getting access to the high-quality pre-K that they need."

"Last year I pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over five years," Obama said. "And with help of the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC, we're making a down payment on that goal by connecting more than 15,000 schools, 20 million students over the next two years, so that there is wireless in every classroom."

Obama also revisited some themes from his State of the Union speak Tuesday, saying: "We've got to make it easier for folks to work their way into the middle class -- an opportunity agenda that has four parts: More new jobs. Making sure folks have the skills to fill those jobs. Making sure that we are rewarding hard work with a living wage and incomes. And the thing that I'm here to talk about right here -- guaranteeing every young person access to a world-class education. ...

"When I came into office, we took on a financial aid system running through the banks that was good for the banks but wasn't good for students. We reformed it, providing billions more dollars to millions more students. And now we've got more young people graduating from college than ever before."

Speaking earlier at a General Electric Co. plant in Wisconsin, Obama outlined his "opportunity agenda" to train workers for current and future jobs.

"We've got too much work to do out there, because the defining project of our generation, what we have to tackle right now, what has driven me throughout my presidency and what will drive me until I wave goodbye, is making sure that we're restoring opportunity to every single person," Obama told 500 managers, workers and elected officials at the GE Energy Waukesha Engines Facility.

The plant builds huge orange-painted VHP [Very High Powered] EPA-certified natural gas powered engines used in oil and gas industries.

The president is on the second day of a two-day trip pushing issues he raised Tuesday in his fifth State of the Union address -- raising the minimum wage to $10.10 a hour, pay equity for women, world-class education, expanding economic opportunity, and job training.

Relaxed in shirt sleeves despite frigid cold and blowing snow outside, Obama toured the plant in largely Republican Waukesha and joked that he "always appreciated the hospitality that [Green Bay] Packer Country gives a [Chicago] Bears fan."

He got laughs when he said he saw some "Cheeseheads for Obama" during his first campaign swing in the state.

"Today, we learned that in the second half of last year our economy grew by 3.7 percent," he said. "We still have more work to do, put that's pretty strong. And our businesses led the way."

Obama then signed a presidential memorandum directing Vice President Joe Biden to conduct a full review to determine the best ways to update and reform federal training programs.

"What we need to do is look at where are the jobs and take a job-driven approach to training," Obama said. "That's what you're doing here in Wisconsin.

"We've got all the ingredients we need to make sure that America thrives," he said. "And the question for folks in Washington is whether they're going to help or they're going to hinder that progress."

Obama wrapped up his four-state trip and returned to the White House Thursday night.

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