Last month over half a million Americans lost their jobs, reported President Barack Obama at a press conference on May 8. That, coupled with the fact that many Americans are under-qualified for the modern workplace, prompted Barack to roll out a new educational plan for the country that engages uneducated workers.
"If we want to come out of this recession stronger than before, we need to make sure our workforce is better prepared than ever before," said Barack. "Right now, someone who doesn’t have a college degree is more than twice as likely to be unemployed as someone who does. And so many of the Americans who have lost their jobs can’t find new ones because they simply don’t have the skills and training they need for the jobs they want."
To address this, the president would like to change the country’s unemployment benefits program. "Our unemployment system should be–not a safety net, but a stepping stone to a new future," Barack explained. "It should offer folks educational opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have."
The president announced his call for sweeping changes to be made to the Pell Grant system, which gives money to college students that meet certain financial qualifications. He’d like for the grants to be more accessible to recently discharged members of the workforce. "I’ve asked my secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and my secretary of labor, Hilda Solis, to work closely with states and our institutions of higher education and encourage them not only to allow these changes, but inform all workers receiving unemployment benefits of the training programs and financial support open to them," he said.
Barack would also like to shine a light on the community and technical colleges of the country, appointing Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and former community college professor, to lead "a national effort to raise awareness about what we’re doing to open the doors to our community colleges."
The president was hopeful in his speech, but quick to note that more changes need to be made down the line. "These steps are just a short-term down payment on our larger goal of ensuring that all Americans get the skills and education they need to succeed in today’s economy," Barack advised, before concluding that "in the weeks to come, I will lay out a fundamental rethinking of our job training, vocational education, and community college programs. It’s time to move beyond the idea that we need several different programs to address several different problems – we need one comprehensive policy that addresses our comprehensive challenges."
– Whitney Teal