President Barack Obama on Wednesday called growing the middle class "the defining issue of our time" and announced $600 million in new competitive grants to create training programs to teach Americans the skills necessary to obtain well-paying jobs.
Obama, along with Vice President Joe Biden, traveled to a community college in western Pennsylvania to announce the executive actions that are the latest in a series of measures the White House has taken to bypass Washington gridlock. Nearly $500 million will go towards developing ways for businesses and educators to help train potential employees obtain the skills needed to for available jobs. Another $100 million will go towards expanding apprenticeship programs.
"I promise you, there is not a job out there that is going to pay a lot if you don’t have some sort of specialized training," Obama said.
Wednesday's announcement was the culmination of an initiative the president announced during his State of the Union meant to pair training and apprenticeship programs with readily-filled jobs. The Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center, where the president and vice president spoke, is an example of how community colleges can be some of the best places for such training to take place, Obama said.
And while the economy continues to slowly recovering, both Biden and Obama acknowledged the middle class is still suffering from the effects of the 2008 financial collapse.
"If you're responsible, if you're willing to put in some sweat, you can get ahead," Obama said. "You may not be fabulously wealthy, but you can support a family, you can buy a home...Just the basics and knowing that you’re part of a community that is growing for everybody, not just some. Restoring that idea is the defining issue of our time."