By Valerie Morris
President Obama stressed the importance of keeping job-industries local during his visit to LCCC April 18 to an audience of nearly 400 students, workers and local officials. This is the second time he has visited the college, the first being in January 2010 for a town hall meeting. He emphasized training programs, such as the Employment NetWork at LCCC, and their importance to the economy and to dislocated workers.
“When you take classes at a community college like this one and you learn the skills that you need to get a job right away, that does not just benefit you; it benefits the company that ends up hiring and profiting from your skills,” said Obama. “It makes the entire region stronger economically.”
Strengthening local and national economy was a key point of Obama’s speech. He mentioned that in the industries of science and technology, there were twice as many job openings as there were workers who had the skills to do the jobs, a reality he said “makes no sense.”
Obama also said that he was inspired by the stories of several LCCC students he met with before the event.
“When I meet these folks, these folks inspire me, because a lot of them have gone through tough times,” said Obama. “It’s hard especially when you’re mid-career, when you’re having to change jobs. And the resilience they show and the determination they show, that’s what America’s about. That’s our defining spirit. We don’t quit.”
One of the students who Obama met with was Duane Sutton, a student who began LCCC’s 18-week Computer Numerical Control (CNC) program in March. Sutton worked at Plastipak Packaging for four years, and was laid off in July 2010.
Obama cited Sutton’s experiences, and those of students with similar stories, as a reason why workforce training programs are important to the economy.
“What’s the better way to make our economy stronger? Give more tax breaks to every millionaire and billionaire in the country, or make investments in education and research and health care and job training—make investments in Bronson and Duane and Andrea and David and put folks back to work?” said Obama, referencing some of the students he’d met earlier.
Obama praised Ohio as a “resilient” state. “Ohio is a great example of the core strength and decency of the American people,” said Obama. “You’re working hard. You haven’t given up.”
The importance of workforce training programs, according to Obama, is to help prepare workers for unforeseen pitfalls such as layoffs or sudden illness.
“And that’s why we’re helping more community colleges like this one to become community career centers, so folks who are looking for a new job or a better-paying job can learn the skills that businesses need right now,” said Obama.
Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda and Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer were among local officials who attended. Brinda said she was pleased that Obama had put the focus on local industry.
Ritenauer agreed with Obama’s points about investing in local workers to help grow economy locally and nationally.
Obama also showed his lighter side during the speech, joking about a previous visit where Riddell had presented him with a presidential helmet. He joked that he may need it “between now and November.”