WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is focusing on high-tech jobs in his bid to make progress on stagnant wages in this country.
Obama has obtained commitments from more than 300 employers as well as local governments in 20 regions of the country to train and hire high technology workers in an effort to drive up higher-income employment.
Under the program, the Obama administration will provide $100 million in competitive grants to joint initiatives by employers, training institutions and local governments that target low-skilled workers who don’t have easy access to training. The money comes from fees companies pay to the government to hire foreign workers under the H-1B visa program.
Among the communities that have pledged to participate are New York City, Louisville, Kansas City, Detroit, Nashville and San Francisco.
People familiar with the program inside and outside the White House said Obama is to announce the program, called TechHire, during a speech Monday to the National League of Cities.
The initiative is designed to prepare U.S. workers for a growing number of technology jobs. According to the White House, of the 5 million jobs available today, more than half a million of them are in fields such as software development, network administration and cybersecurity.
Obama’s attention to technology comes as the unemployment rate is dropping but wages remain flat.
According to the White House, the average salary for workers with high-tech skills is 50 percent higher than the average private-sector American job.
The administration’s plan is for universities and community colleges to provide training, but to also rely on high-tech educational academies, some of which have entered into arrangements with cities to train workers in a matter of months and then help place them in jobs.
The training academies undergo independent studies to confirm the rate of job placements.
Under the plan, the federal government would provide as-of-yet unspecified federal assistance to help local governments leverage training for high-tech workers.
The unemployment rate in February dropped to 5.5 percent but average hourly earnings rose just 3 cents to $24.78 from January. Raising wages has become one of the biggest challenges of the current economic recovery.
“Helping more Americans train and connect to these jobs is a key element of the president’s middle-class economics agenda,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Jennifer Friedman said.