""We are a people who value the dignity and worth of every American. Everybody matters" -President Obama
Tonight the President addressed the nation with this year's State of the Union. After the round of introductions and typical pomp and circumstance, the President presented his vision for America.
With the spoilers in the press, the speech didn't have any surprises. It it focused on six major issues:
Growth in our economy
The need for jobs, thriving employers, and a skilled workforce
The role of the US in the world, specifically the war on ISIS and Ebola
National Security, including cyber-security
Breaking D.C. gridlock
What was a surprise was the overarching tone -- he was firm that his future is one that invests in the middle class and that he has no plans to be a lame duck President. For us policy wonks he seemed relaxed despite the lack of Democrats in the audience this year, and fewer bipartisan standing ovations.
The President kicked off his speech with the good news, "our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years."
However, he grounded this good news with the reality that most of this growth has not been enjoyed by the middle class. The President shared an aggressive plan, which he called "middle-class economics" including:
Childcare: "Quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America — by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year." More access to childcare, may mean more jobs in the field
Paid Sick Leave: "Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do." New York City has implemented paid sick leave this year, it will be critical for us to understand the impact on employers so we can communicate the value of these types of policies on worker retention
Raising the Minimum Wage: "And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise." As we know in NYS this is a progessive trend nationwide
On workforce, the President addressed the importance of skills to his middle class plan, "To make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.". He also shared "middle skills language": "By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education. Two in three. And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not smart for our future."
Free Community College: "I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today." A win for community colleges, the challenge is making sure students are academically ready and have the supports they need to graduate, and deal with life
Employer Investment in Skills: "Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics. Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships — opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education." Key words: College-employer partnerships; employer incumbent worker training, and paid appenticeships
Hiring Veterans: "So to every CEO in America, let me repeat: If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a veteran." It is critically important that we serve more and serve them well
A few other items that we predict could impact jobs and workforce development:
Investment in infrastructure will be important; "21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet". The Keystone pipeline could derail (pun intended) investments in infrastructure
Continued international conflicts with ISIS will mean continued need for investment in military and its contractors
Climate change, and emphasis on a "clean" economy could mean much needed "green" jobs
Lastly, the President spent much of his speech sharing the importance of a productive and congenial Congress. This could not be more critical. Both parties have talked about the need to support the middle class, but without a constructive debate about the solutions we will continue to sit and wait, and wait, and wait.
To read the full State of the Union: http://bit.ly/1AK6zG0
To read the Republican response: http://politi.co/1wooFem