Obama, Biden announce $600 million initiative to close skills gap through job training and apprenticeships

Updated Apr 17, 2014

Barack Obama speakingToday, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden announced a $600 million initiative that seeks to equip more workers with the skills needed to fill thousands of open but specialized jobs.

The initiative will be funded by existing Labor Department funds.

The first part of the initiative is $500 million in competitive grants intended to spur community colleges and employers to identify open jobs and develop training programs specific to filling those jobs.

As part of that process, grantees will be required to “partner with the public workforce system and employers in that sector to address the skills needed for these open jobs, and create pathways from entry level positions to more advanced positions to ensure room for growth for employees with even the lowest starting skills levels,” according to a White House statement.

Applicants are also being encouraged to design their programs to work with national trade groups in order to “replicate these with other education and training institutions across the country where industry also needs to hire workers with those skills.”

Applications for these grants are being accepted now and the deadline is July 7.

The remaining $100 million will go toward grants for apprenticeship programs. The White House statement notes that “87 percent of apprentices are employed after completing their programs and the average starting wage for apprenticeship graduates is over $50,000.”

These apprenticeship programs will be designed through partnerships between employers, labor organizations, community colleges and others. As with the larger grant program for training, these apprenticeship programs are encouraged to be designed with scaling in mind.

Applications for the apprenticeship grants will begin later this year.