Jewish World Review July 6, 2011 / 4 Tammuz, 5771
Obama's on-the-job retraining from Clinton
By Martin Schram
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Last week, at last, the president conducted the sort of innovative, job-creating event voters have been waiting to see. It was precisely the sort of event the people have been expecting the incumbent to start doing to win re-election in this jobs-starved economy.
But unfortunately for Barack Obama, the president who dreamed up, set up and then headed up this hands-on leadership-you-can-believe-in event was Bill Clinton.
As faithful readers know, this corner has long been urging President Obama's policy experts and political strategists to rethink and retool -- to get their leader more visibly involved in innovative efforts that actually create jobs. So far, his visits to places that are good news blips of job-creation have mainly convinced Americans who are already disappointed (see also: distressed and even depressed) that perhaps America's 44th president just doesn't feel their plight and pain.
But last week, America's 42nd president showed us he not only gets it but also is charting a new course to do something about it as a private citizen. On June 29, the Clinton Global Initiative organization focused for the first time on a United States crisis, convening a two-day gathering in Chicago of some 750 leaders of businesses and non-profit organizations. And Clinton set the theme by titling his opening presentation: "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs."
So what can be done? The former president served up a brain-boggling statistic that set the mission for the conference: There are three million job openings that remain unfilled because applicants for those positions have lacked the training necessary to do the work. But if the job applicants were suitably trained right now, America's devastating 9.1 percent unemployment rate could be instantly reduced by at least 3 percentage points -- dropping the unemployment rate by one-third, to a much more economically manageable and politically palatable 6.1 percent.
"Posted job openings ... are being filled only half as fast as they were filled in every previous recession since World War II," said Clinton.
How could a nationwide worker retraining effort be financed? "The banks in America have well over $2 trillion in cash not committed to loans," Clinton said. He announced several "commitments" from businesses and labor groups to pay for some retraining efforts.
But of greater long-term importance may well be the presentations of innovative approaches and solutions offered by politically and professionally diverse leaders.
Mississippi's Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, said community colleges are uniquely positioned to train local job seekers. "Our community colleges are very good," he said. "But they weren't getting the incentives or rewards for job training. It was all going to universities." He added: "We have to quit stigmatizing skills training." He said Mississippi has begun funding job training at community colleges instead of new spending on unemployment insurance.
Georgia's former Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said he set up a program that connects prospective untrained workers with companies that have openings. Georgia pays companies to train workers for six weeks; after that, companies can offer any or all trainees permanent jobs. Since 2003, he said, 62 percent of the trained workers were hired.
The conference also heard about worker retraining successes produced by Chicago Career Tech, a recently formed organization that provides middle class unemployed with classroom and hands-on training at more than 150 Chicago area businesses and nonprofits.
And the conference heard from the Chicago's new mayor. "We in the public sector, we don't create jobs," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "We create the conditions so you can invest and create jobs in our city."
After watching anew the mastery of Clinton, his first White House boss, Emanuel may be in the best position to dial the BlackBerry number he knows by heart -- having served as chief of staff and offer a trusted bit of on-the-job training for a class of one, his last White House boss, Obama, whom he served as chief of staff.
There is still time for the Oval Office's eloquent and never redundant incumbent to master Bill Clinton's innovative "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" leadership. It may be the 2012 key to whether Obama remains employed for four more years.
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