Biden meets with Cabinet members to discuss job training, restoring middle class

WASHINGTON – Vice-President Joe Biden says proper job training can remove obstacles that have narrowed the middle class for the past 20 years.

Biden met with Cabinet officials Thursday to talk about job training programs, part of an effort by President Barack Obama to take action on initiatives without going through Congress.

“It’s about a lot more than jobs,” Biden said. “It’s about opening it up and removing obstacles just for being able to grow the economy and middle class.”

Obama announced his goal to overhaul job training programs during his State of the Union address. At a General Electric engine factory near Milwaukee last month, he signed a presidential memo directing Biden to lead a review and to work with cities, businesses and labour leaders to better match training to employer needs.

Biden said Thursday that the federal government is not the only answer and that employer involvement and private-public partnerships are necessary to create opportunity. He said job outsourcing has been one the biggest challenges and that manufacturing should be brought back to the U.S.

“We still have the most productive workers in the world,” Biden said. “We still have the greatest research universities in the world.”

The vice-president said Obama has already received commitments from nearly 300 companies to reach out to the nearly 4 million long-term unemployed, those who have been jobless for six months or more.

Biden said proper training leads to employment, which he said can also change the outlook of an entire community.

“When that guy or woman down the street’s been out of work … and they get a job, it changes attitudes,” he said. “It changes attitudes and it gives people hope.”

Among the officials joining Biden at the meeting with White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett were Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.