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Investing in Skills to Build a Secure Middle Class

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In today's economy, access to training for in-demand jobs can help American workers punch their tickets to the middle class, and it can help American businesses continue to grow. However, as our economy continues to expand, too many businesses can't find the skilled workers they need, and too many people don't know how to access training that can help them find good jobs.

The good news is that we have an invaluable resource that can help deliver the world-class job training that prepares workers for the jobs that need to be filled: our community college system. Community colleges provide higher education where people live, helping to build strong ladders of opportunity that allow people to secure a foothold in the middle class.

That's why President Obama and Vice President Biden went to the Community College of Allegheny County outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., this week to announce the fourth and final round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program, known as TAACCCT.

From the outset, the Obama administration has recognized that building a robust skills infrastructure means building strong partnerships with community colleges. Since 2011, the U.S. Labor Department has invested nearly $1.5 billion through the TAACCCT program to strengthen the links between community colleges, employers, and the public workforce system to create pipelines of skilled workers. These regional partnerships are essential to growing the economy, strengthening the workforce and creating opportunity in the 21st century.

The Community College of Allegheny County was part of a statewide consortium that received $20 million in the first round of funding to expand training in advanced manufacturing, energy distribution and healthcare technology. To date, more than 2,200 students have enrolled in the school's training programs, which is one of more than 800 colleges across the country that have received funding.

The department is now making an additional $450 million available to help community colleges expand their capacity to train workers for 21st-century jobs. The funding will make sure adult learners are getting the credentials and the certifications that will allow them to move into jobs that actually exist in their communities. Community colleges across the country can apply for funding, and every state will receive at least $2.25 million for community college career training programs.

In this fourth round of funding, we are focusing on expanding best practices from previous rounds −- scaling up what works in local areas to state-wide partnerships. We're also focused on expanding partnerships with national industry groups, ensuring that education and training pathways can build on each other, and improving statewide employment and education data integration. Grant applicants that address these priorities may be eligible for additional funding.

TAACCCT is making a profound difference in people's lives. Since I started in this job, I've had the chance to visit a handful of colleges around the country and meet some amazing people like Ken Dover, Gary Pollard and Sheri Dron who are using these innovative training programs to build a better future for themselves. I can't wait to see what this next round will bring.

Join the conversation about job training using the hashtag #FindYourPath.