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Vice President Gore Announces New Efforts to
Prepare America's Workers, Employers for the 21st Century

Gore convened a Summit on "21st Century Skills for 21st Century Jobs" a national forum organized to help working Americans get the skills they need to succeed and to ensure employers get the skilled workers they need to stay competitive.

"America's competitiveness and the prosperity of our people in a changing economy depend increasingly on high-skill, high-wage jobs," said Vice President Gore, who, along with Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, Commerce Secretary Bill Daley and Small Business Administrator Aida Alvarez, invited business and education leaders, federal, state and local officials, labor unions, and communities across the nation to Washington to discuss strategies for addressing this challenge.

"Realizing our potential will require investing in education and learning for all of our people throughout their lifetimes." At the Summit, which involved tens of thousands of people satellite in more than 800 communities across the nation, the Vice President announced several steps to address this challenge. These steps include:

• An Estimated $60 Million Plan to Help Train American Workers for High-skill Jobs in Industries Facing Skill Shortages. The Vice President announced a new $60 million plan to help regional partnerships identify skill needs in shortage areas, design training curricula to upgrade the skills of incumbent and dislocated workers, provide training for workers to prepare them for these jobs, and support the planning and policy efforts of local business-led boards established under the recently enacted Workforce Investment Act. These partnerships would be led by businesses working with other partners, including institutions of higher education, labor unions, and workforce investment boards. The plans call for financing these efforts through existing funding and funds generated by the $500 fee on employers for petitions filed under the H-1B program.

• More Worker Scholarships for the 21st Century. Citing a new administration report describing the benefit of education and training for employees and employers, the Vice President called for more employers to cover the costs of their employees' education and proposed an expansion and extension of Section 127 of the tax code to help make this possible. This proposal will assure that employees can receive educational benefits from their employers tax-free -- whether the employee is taking undergraduate or graduate courses.

• A new tax credit to encourage literacy programs at the workplace. The Vice President proposed a new tax credit to encourage employers to provide literacy, English-as-a-Second Language, and basic education programs for their employees. Under this proposal, businesses could get a 10 percent income tax credit for these kinds of programs with a maximum credit of up to $525 per participating employee. An alarming number of American adults -- 44 million according to the National Adult Literacy study -- struggle with a job application, cannot read to their children, or are left on welfare rolls because they lack basic skills. Some are immigrants who face long waiting lists in many cities for English-as-a-Second Language courses. This new tax credit will help deploy the resources of businesses to make sure those in greatest need don't get left behind.

• A challenge to help every adult American finance postsecondary education and training throughout their lifetime and a new advisory committee of outside experts and leaders to develop options for meeting this challenge. Saying that the nation was crossing into a new economic frontier -- where knowledge has become our strategic resource and learning our strategic skill -- the Vice President said that every American should have a mechanism to finance their postsecondary education and training throughout their lifetime. To this end, President Clinton and he will create an advisory committee of outside leaders and experts that will analyze such options as low-income loans, grants, tax incentives, or other ways to pay for adults to continue their education. The Vice President suggested exploring new ways to encourage Americans to pool their own savings, contributions from their employers, and possibly federal funds to pay for lifetime learning. Among other ideas the Vice President wants to be considered to accomplish this goal is the creation of a lifetime learning account.

• Helping more working Americans and dislocated workers get access to college aid. To help more working Americans and dislocated workers benefit from federal aid to college, the Vice President announced that is calling on the Secretary of Education to remind every institution of higher education of the flexibility to allow dislocated workers to receive Pell Grants (even if their income the previous year would otherwise make them ineligible) and to encourage them to use this discretion to help dislocated workers go back to school and obtain the retraining they need. The Vice President also called on the Secretary of Education to encourage each institution of higher education to help make adults aware that Pell Grants may be used by working adults in part-time programs leading toward degrees.

• Prestigious New Award from the President and Vice President for High Skills Communities that invest effectively in raising the skills of adults across the community. Up to ten communities each year would receive a national award from the President and Vice President for achieving concrete results in improving the skills of their adult workforce and will receive financial support to help other communities learn from their efforts. Modeled after the Baldrige Award, this award will require applicants to go through a rigorous self-assessment to identify needs in their community and develop additional strategies for improving adult literacy and workforce skills.

• Bringing together a new leadership group of top CEOs, college presidents, labor union leaders, cabinet members, and other public officials to help working Americans develop the skills they need for career success and economic security. This leadership group will develop recommendations for how employers, institutions of higher education, labor unions, local and state governments, and entire communities can invest -- individually and working together -- in workforce skills and learning. The group will also develop principles to help identify exceptional programs and partnerships to upgrade the skills of adults and publicize them in ways that can help others learn and build on their successes. Finally, the group will develop plans for informational and marketing campaigns that could be used by the private sector and State and local governments to encourage adults to pursue ongoing education and training.

• Launching new Internet services -- America's Learning eXchange (ALX) -- to provide easy access to information about available education and training opportunities and resources. Individual Americans will be able to use this new Internet service like an electronic "yellow pages" to search for courses, seminars, workshops, or training programs and providers that best meet their needs. They will also be able to access consumer information about jobs, skills required, employment trends and institutions to help them make informed choices about the training and education they need. Employers will be able to locate training packages and providers that can meet training specifications. Finally, it will be able to provide personalized information on the different kinds and likely amounts of public and private financial assistance available to support an individuals' lifelong learning.

• New Executive Order to help the federal government become a model user of technology for training. Later today, the President will sign an Executive Order that encourages innovative use of technology for training in federal agencies, creates a Task Force to provide leadership within the Federal government on the effective use of training technology, and ensures that all federal agencies include training technology as a fundamental part of their planning. OPM Director Janice Lachance will oversee this effort.

• Releasing a new Administration report showing the pay-off of investing in education and training. This new report finds that eight of the ten fastest growing jobs in the next decade require college education or moderate to long-term training. The report also linked education to job security, finding that adults with higher levels of education are less likely to be unemployed and are more likely to find reemployment quickly if they are displaced. Moreover, dislocated workers with an associate's degree or higher found new jobs at a higher average pay than the jobs they lost. Finally, the report highlighted data showing that increased education and training is linked to higher employee wages and employer productivity, with college graduates earning on average 77 percent more than individuals with only a high school degree (up from 58 percent in 1975). But the report suggested that not enough adult Americans benefit from these investments, especially those in greatest need -- including younger adults, the elderly, and the less educated, and outlined several key challenges that need to be addressed. The report is from the Departments of Commerce, Labor, Education -- as well as the Small Business Administration and National Institute for Literacy.

U.S. Newswire via NewsEdge Corporation : WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 /U.S. Newswire/ [Copyright 1999, Comtex]

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