Upgrading America’s Skills: Highlights from 2015 State of the Union

Policy and Government

Upgrading America’s Skills: Highlights from 2015 State of the Union

By Tony Wan     Jan 20, 2015

Upgrading America’s Skills: Highlights from 2015 State of the Union

“Mister Speakeerrrr, the President of the United States!”

So begins most States of the Union, and Barack Obama started his 2015 speech on the theme of recovery, highlighting a US economy that is “growing at the fastest pace since 1999.”

But more remains to be done, he insists, to “restore the link between hard work and more opportunity for every Americans.” A major priority, as he prepares to pitch his 2015 budget plan, is to prepare citizens for a new economy--one in which “no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs.”

“To make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills,” he declared.

Nearly all of the education talking points touched upon tying schooling to jobs, and the POTUS devoted the majority of the three minutes he spent on this issue to extol his plan to “lower the cost of community college...to zero.” This proposal should come as no surprise, as Obama spelled out the ambitious plan last week.

It’s a goal that should have bi-partisan support, he notes, with Tennessee (led by Republicans) and Chicago (a Democrat stronghold) already offering free community college options for their students. (However, John Boehner, Republican Speaker of the House, remained unfazed--even slightly irked--while Vice President Joe Biden gave the plan a standing ovation.)

If all goes well, Obama wants to see “two years of college become as free and universal in America as high school is today.”

He followed up with a shoutout to Biden’s work on updating the job training system and “connecting community colleges with local employers to train local workers to fill high paying jobs like coding, nursing and robotics.”

Obama touched briefly on other issues related to education:

On net neutrality: “I intend to protect a free and open Internet….extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to reshape our world.”

On cybersecurity and student data: "No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids.”

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