White House Unveils Efforts to ‘Upskill America’

By Bill Leonard Apr 27, 2015
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Officials with the Obama administration outlined a series of new steps that the federal government is taking to improve U.S. workers’ skills during a White House summit on April 24, 2015. The training-and-development initiative is called UpSkill America and dozens of employers, as well as business, labor and education advocates, gathered at the White House to demonstrate their commitment to the program.

“It is in the overwhelming naked self-interest of the United States of America to have the most highly skilled workforce in the world,” said Vice President Joe Biden. “If we continue to build on and take advantage of our nation’s skilled workforce then the United States will own the 21st century.”

As the summit began, officials with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, a Boston-based organization dedicated to strengthening the skills of U.S. workers, announced that they have joined with other business leadership groups to launch UpSkill America nationwide, with the mission of expanding economic opportunity for U.S. workers through education and workforce development.

Companies of all sizes and from multiple industries have committed to the initiative, and leaders of many of these businesses traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the summit. The businesses and organizations represented at the White House event included Urban Health Plan, Fives Machining Systems, Norton Healthcare Inc., TriHealth, Greater Boston Hospitality Employers, Universal Woods Inc., Austal USA, UnityPoint Health, Global Partner Solutions, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, EcoMize USA, Genesis HealthCare, Metaphase Technologies and Jersey City Medical Center/Barnabas Health.

“We applaud the work of these employers from a variety of our nation’s fastest growing and most evolving industries. We are elated that they had the opportunity to attend the White House summit and showcase their hard work and commitment to investing in their workforce,” said Fred Dedrick, executive director of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. “The National Fund is committed to working hands-on with employers to help American workers seize the opportunity for better paying jobs with better wages.”

To promote the efforts of the summit and UpSkill America, the White House released a fact sheet outlining the nationwide efforts of the Obama administration, employers and business groups to promote job skills improvement programs. According to the fact sheet, the administration is taking steps such as:

  • Proposing new rules for reforming existing federal workforce development programs.
  • Implementing an extensive job-driven training review led by Biden.
  • Creating a new $100 million U.S. apprenticeship grants competition.
  • Designating $100 million in new federal government investments to train and connect workers to jobs in technology and other in-demand professions.
  • Devising a $25 million competition for the development of an online skills academy that would use technology to provide free and open web-based courses of study to allow students to earn credentials and certificates online.

In the fact sheet, the Obama administration also recognized the National Fund and its efforts with the Aspen Institute, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, the HR Policy Association, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships, the Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board, the Bay Area Council, and the Small Business Majority to organize and promote the UpSkill America campaign. According to a White House written statement, “The coalition of these business groups will work to recognize leading employers that provide expanded career opportunities for their workers, promote the widespread adoption of business policies and practices that increase economic opportunity for front-line workers, and cultivate public-private education and workforce development efforts that support and advance these initiatives.”

Biden thanked the employers and the advocacy groups for their efforts to ensure that U.S. workers have the job skills that will lead to future success and economic security of the United States.

“You are the people who are determining whether or not we continue to grow as we should as a country,” he said. “And President Obama and I thank you for your efforts and dedication.”

Bill Leonard is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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