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Obama prods employers to invest in displaced workers

President Obama urged employers to invest in displaced American workers whom he called “sparks” ready to ignite the economy.

In a visit Wednesday to a community college in suburban Washington, Obama touted a $2-billion federal plan designed to customize job-training programs to suit the needs of manufacturing companies around the country.

“Right now, there are people all across America with talent waiting to be tapped,” Obama said in a speech at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria. Those people are “sparks waiting to be lit, and our job is to light them.”

The irony of the American economy is that a lot of people are looking for work, Obama said, while many companies are searching for skilled workers.

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“There’s a mismatch that we can close,” he said.

The problem for Obama isn’t that simple, however.

Private-sector job growth slowed in May, reviving fears of a double-dip recession. Obama says he isn’t worried that will happen, but administration officials acknowledged concern about the possibility that the slowdown could be part of a trend.

Meanwhile, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll suggests the public is starting to blame Obama for the country’s economic troubles. Nearly 60% of respondents disapproved of his performance on the economy.

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Obama continues to emphasize familiar themes about training workers for new and existing job opportunities they may not have considered.

At the college, Obama announced the expansion of his “Skills for America’s Future” program, designed to help schools develop training and education programs for the specific jobs available at area businesses.

The president described new commitments between members of the National Assn. of Manufacturers and several colleges, which he said would equip 500,000 community colleges with industry-accepted credentials for manufacturing jobs.

The White House also is setting up Internet resources meant to connect students with a range of jobs.

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Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus dismissed Obama’s remarks as “spin.”

“It’s pretty clear what’s happening,” Priebus told reporters at a breakfast hosted by Bloomberg News. “We know that unemployment’s at a level that’s staggering. We know that the debt and the deficit [are] going to crush future generations. And it’s a message that average Americans understand is an unacceptable record that the president has accumulated under his watch.”

christi.parsons@latimes.com


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