U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez spent part of Tuesday in Toledo, Ohio, to spotlight successful training programs that will help students compete for jobs in a challenging 21st century economy.

The two Secretaries visited Toledo Technology Academy, a member of the Toledo Public Schools initiative that was recently awarded $3.8 million through the Youth CareerConnect grant program, a collaborative effort between the Education and Labor departments.

The grant is helping increase employer partnerships with the school system while allowing effective programs like the academy’s to expand and serve more students. Secretaries Duncan and Perez will tour classes and participate in a roundtable discussion with school officials, students and local union and workforce leaders. A press availability will follow, the White House said in advance guidance.

Their next appearance was at the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee for a tour of its 45,000 square-foot training facility.  Apprentices at this state-of-the-art complex are trained for commercial and residential electrical careers as well as telecommunications jobs. The program is affiliated with Owens Community College where apprenticeship graduates can apply their training toward college credit there or at any other Ohio community college. Owens just completed the process to join the Registered Apprenticeship-College Consortium, which will expand opportunities for graduates to further enhance their skills and career prospects by quickly completing an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Today’s visit in Toledo by Duncan and Perez is a follow up to Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement earlier this month on a comprehensive review of federal job training programs in a report entitled Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity. The study highlights successful job-driven training strategies.

In the meantime, President Obama signed last week the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – the first major reform to the federal workforce system in more than 15 years.  The law will unify and streamline services, improve accountability and transparency, and elevate work-based learning and sector strategies like those used at Toledo Technology Academy, as well as expanding apprenticeship opportunities like the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee.

Ohio’s senior U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown used the visit today to underscore the need for job-driven training that addresses the gap between worker training programs and the needs of regional, high growth industries. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act President Obama signed contains provisions modeled after Brown’s SECTORS Act that would help dislocated workers train for high-tech jobs in their region.

“With too many Americans still unable to find work, we must do all that we can to ensure that our workers are qualified to fill available jobs,” Brown said. “I applaud Secretaries Duncan and Perez for their visit to Ohio and efforts to help close our country’s skills gap. We can promote job-driven training by implementing provisions from my SECTORS Act. This will strengthen job training efforts and enable our schools to partner with U.S. industries to help them grow and flourish.”

During the 2010 campaign for Governor, John Kasich touted plans to overhaul Ohio’s workforce development program but he waited an entire year to many any announcements.  When he did, it was to appoint Rich Frederick his workforce development czar.  “I’m going to have this thing called the workforce training reform plan,” said Kasich at his 2012 State of the State speech in Steubenville.  “This guy Rich Frederick that works for me, he is reporting directly to me. He is going to change the whole thing. We’re going to do metrics, how the community colleges, the technical schools — by the way, let’s bring vocational education back strong in our K-through-12 education, bring it back.”

By November 2012, Frederick was quietly let go.   Later that same month, and nearly two years since taking office, Kasich took a second swing at Workforce Development: announcing he was appointing a 25 member workforce development panel tasked with achieving the same goals he’d announced a year earlier.  Except for signing a bill allowing for some training vouchers, Kasich and his panel appear not to have moved any closer to achieving any of his goals.

Evangelize!
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