- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 8, 2011

President Obama on Wednesday toured an automotive training facility at a Virginia community college and outlined a new worker-training initiative to promote U.S. manufacturing jobs, highlighting a major theme of his re-election campaign.

Mr. Obama, speaking at a Northern Virginia Community College campus, said the Skills for America’s Future partnership with business would help match firms with aspiring workers by ensuring that students earn industry-accepted credentials.

“The irony is that even though a lot of folks are looking for work, there are also a lot of companies looking for skilled workers,” Mr. Obama said. “There’s a mismatch that we can close. And this partnership is a great way to do it.”

He made the announcement as the economic recovery showed signs of slowing in May, with the nationwide unemployment rate inching up to 9.1 percent as the economy added 54,000 jobs, compared with more than 240,000 the previous month. The manufacturing sector shed 5,000 jobs in May.

The president used his appearance at the community college to tout his goals of leading the world in college graduates by the end of the decade and strengthening the middle class, something he said largely depends on boosting manufacturing.

Indeed, Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies have made U.S. manufacturing an integral theme of their 2012 platform. In May, congressional Democrats unveiled a “Make It in America” agenda that calls for increased infrastructure spending, the creation of a national manufacturing strategy and clean-energy incentives, among other proposals.
If the U.S. doesn’t take such steps, Mr. Obama has warned, it will find itself at a competitive disadvantage with other countries.

Republicans have argued that it’s Mr. Obama’s policies that are exacerbating unemployment.

“Our economy is being harmed by high federal taxes, costly bureaucratic mandates, and the unnecessarily high electricity and fuel costs on job creating businesses,” former Sen. George Allen, a Virginia Republican who is seeking a return to the seat in 2012, said in a statement. “Nearly 14 million Americans are unemployed and too many college students are having a hard time finding jobs to utilize their talents.

“For Virginia’s economic competitiveness, Washington needs to stop the attacks on Virginia energy resources and our working people from the coalfields to the coast.”

• Kara Rowland can be reached at krowland@washingtontimes.com.

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