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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 28, 1999
                         CLOSING THE SKILLS GAP:                     
                 PRESIDENT CLINTON'S ADULT EDUCATION AND             
                     FAMILY LITERACY, RE-EMPLOYMENT,                
                            January 28, 1999                         

Today, President Clinton Announces A $965 Million Three-Part Initiative To Close America's Skills Gap. In Putting People First, candidates Bill Clinton and Al Gore outlined a vision for lifelong learning, stating that workers should be "able to choose advanced skills training, the chance to earn a high school diploma, or the opportunity to learn to read. And we will streamline the confusing array of publicly funded training programs." Last year, President Clinton signed the Workforce Investment Act, transforming the job training system by streamlining services and empowering workers with a simple skills grant so that they can choose the training they need. However, more work needs to be done. Today, President Clinton is announcing that his FY2000 budget includes a $965 million three-part initiative to address the skills gap:

     (1)  A $190 Million Increase for Adult Education And Family 
          Literacy Initiative;

     (2)  A $368 Million Increase for Universal Re-employment 
          Initiative; and

     (3)  A $405 Million Increase for Youth Employment Initiative.

     America Faces A Skills Gap.  The evidence of a skills gap in 

America is pervasive. On average, employers report that one out of every five of their workers is not fully proficient in his or her job. In manufacturing, 88 percent of companies are having trouble finding qualified applicants for at least one job function. And according to one recent survey, more than 60 percent of corporate leaders say that the number one barrier to sustained economic growth is the lack of a skilled workforce. More than half -- 56 percent -- of establishments report that restructuring and the introduction of new technology have increased the skill requirements for non-managerial employees.

The President's Budget Includes a Comprehensive Package to Help Us Educate and Train American Workers to Fill the Jobs of the 21st Century. This comprehensive strategy has three parts:

  1. An Adult Education and Family Literacy Initiative. Today, 44 million adults struggle with a job application, cannot read to their children, or cannot fully participate in our economic and civic life because they lack basic skills or English proficiency. Many have a learning disability and are not aware of it. Often, they do not know where to get help, are embarrassed to seek it, or cannot seek it because of family responsibilities. Others are immigrants who face long waiting lists in many places where they seek English-language instruction. For some individuals, these low basic skills present a challenge in moving off welfare and succeeding in the workforce.
     The goal of the Adult Literacy initiative is to bring Presidential
     leadership and focus to a pressing national problem by demanding
     improvements in the quality of adult basic education programs and
     increasing funding to help States both meet the new quality goals 
     and serve more people.  This initiative includes:

          $95 Million Increase -- to $468 Million -- to Expand Adult
          Education State Grants and Challenge State and Local 
          Governments to Join Us in Dramatically Increasing Program 
          Quality.  By the year 2005 the President's goal is for the 
          Nation as a whole to:  increase the number of full-time 
          teachers by 20%; double the number of instructional hours 
          per student; triple the number of computer stations available 
          at adult education centers; and more than double the amount 
          of child care and counseling services offered in Federal, 
          State, and local adult education programs.

          $70 Million for an English Literacy/Civics Initiative.  This 
          new initiative provides competitive grants to States and 
          communities for expanded access to high quality English 
          language instruction linked to practical instruction in 
          civics and life skills including how to navigate the 
          workplace, public education system, and other essentials.

          $23 Million for "America Learns Technology."  One of the 
          important keys to higher quality adult education is effective 
          use of advanced technology.  This new initiative would 
          increase access to technology for adult learners by 
          supporting high quality software, pilot projects in 40 
          communities, and advanced research and development.

          $2 Million for a "High Skills Communities" Campaign.  The
          President's campaign will mobilize States and local 
          communities to implement strategies to promote adult 
          education and lifelong learning.  Part of this new initiative 
          provides up to 10 communities $50,000 awards annually for 
          achieving concrete results so that other communities know 
          what works and what doesn't work.

          10% Workplace Education Tax Credit.  Employers who provide
          certain workplace literacy, English language instruction, and
          basic education programs would be allowed a 10 percent income 
          tax credit for eligible educational expenses, with a maximum 
          credit of $525 per participating employee per year.

2. A Universal Re-Employment Initiative. The President's FY2000

     budget makes a five-year commitment to our Nation's reformed job 
     training system.  Specifically, President Clinton proposes to put 
     us on a path that ensures that within five years (1) all displaced 
     workers will receive the job training they want and need; (2) all 
     people who lose their jobs due to no fault of their own will get 
     the re-employment services they need; and (3) all Americans will 
     have access to One-Stop Career Centers.  This initiative includes:

          $190 Million Increase In Dislocated Worker Program to Put 
          Us On Track To Ensure All Dislocated Workers Get The Training 
          They Need.  Since 1993, dislocated worker funding has been 
          expanded by 171 percent -- helping to serve 689,100 workers 
          this year, well more than double the 306,300 workers served 
          in 1993.  The President's FY2000 budget increases funding for 
          the dislocated worker program by $190 million -- helping to 
          serve an additional 169,400 workers this year.  This would 
          put us on path to ensuring every dislocated worker can get 
          the job training he or she needs.

          Expansion of Employment Service To Put Us on Path To Ensure 
          All That Those Who Lose Their Jobs Due to No Fault of Their 
          Own Get the Re-Employment Services They Need.  Today, many 
          workers do not get the job search assistance or other types 
          of re-employment services they need.  Therefore, the 
          President's FY2000 budget expands the budget of the 
          Employment Service (ES) to put us on a path to serve within 
          five years the 1.4 million people who lost their jobs due to 
          no fault of their own and do not receive the re-employment 
          services they need.

          Providing Every American Access To One-Stop Career Centers --
          Helping Americans Make Informed Decisions About Their Futures.
          As part of the Workforce Investment Act, every area of the
          country will have a One-Stop Career Center.  Now, we must 
          ensure that every American has access to the information 
          available at the One-Stops.  The President's budget does just 
          that -- providing $65 million to take the following steps:

          -    First, the President's budget would put in place a 
               system so that the unemployed get job leads the moment 
               they apply for Unemployment Insurance -- transforming 
               our unemployment system into a re-employment system.

          -    Second, the plan creates a nationwide toll-free 
               telephone system so that all workers can find out what 
               services are available and where they can go to receive 
               them.  Every American will have universal access to the 
               services and programs available through One-Stop Career 

          -    Third, the plan ensures that workers can get job search
               information at 4,000 Community-Based Organizations.

          -    Fourth, the plan creates 100 new mobile One-Stop Career
               Centers -- designed to bring the information and 
               services to rural residents and help the Labor 
               Department's existing rapid response teams provide 
               workers the information they need to get back to work.

          -    Fifth, the plan includes funds to help the disabled and 
               the blind benefit from One-Stop Career Centers, 
               including a talking America's Job Bank (AJB), which will 
               be developed in conjunction with the National Federation 
               for the Blind.

3. Initiatives for Disadvantaged Youth. Dealing with the problems of

     at-risk youth is one of the major challenges facing our Nation.  
     In December 1998, the national unemployment rate was just 4.3 
     percent -- the lowest peacetime level in 41 years.  However, while 
     the unemployment rate among African-American teens (aged 16-19) 
     also reached its lowest peacetime level in four decades, it was 
     still 6.5 times higher than the national average and much higher 
     than the rate for white youth.  The goal of the youth employment 
     initiative is to fund promising approaches to increase the 
     educational attainment and employment rates of disadvantaged youth.
     In addition to an increase in JobCorps and another $250 million 
     investment in Youth Opportunity Areas, this initiative includes:

          YouthBuild Expanded by More than 75 Percent.  The President's
          FY2000 budget expands YouthBuild by $32.5 million -- more 
          than 75 percent.  This provides $75 million for a program 
          that provides disadvantaged young adults with education and 
          employment skills by rehabilitating and building housing for 
          low-income and homeless people.

          New $100 Million "Right-Track" Partnerships To Reduce 
          Drop-Out Rate.  The President's balanced budget provides $100 
          million for "Right Track Partnerships" to promote 
          partnerships between schools, employers, and community-based 
          organizations that devise innovative community-wide 
          approaches to increase the rate at which economically 
          disadvantaged and limited-English proficient youth complete 
          and excel in high school and subsequently increase the rate 
          at which these youth go on to post-secondary education,
          training, and higher paying careers.  This new proposal 
          builds on last year's Hispanic Education Action Plan, which 
          received nearly $500 million for FY1999.

          Doubles GEAR-UP for College Program.  President Clinton's
          balanced budget doubles funding -- from $120 million in FY99 
          to $240 million in FY2000 -- for the GEAR UP program that 
          supports both States and partnerships between high-poverty 
          middle or junior high schools and colleges to help low-income 
          children prepare for and enroll in college.  In 2000, GEAR UP 
          would reach 381,000 students.

          New $50 Million Regional Youth Employment Initiative.  The
          President's balanced budget provides $50 million for a 
          Regional Empowerment Zone Program to assist urban Empowerment 
          Zones and Enterprise Communities (EZ/ECs) in linking their 
          economic development strategies to their broader metropolitan 
          regional economies in order to increase the employment of 
          disadvantaged youth.

          $65 Million to Prepare Disadvantaged Youth for Success in
          College.  The President's budget will include a $30 million
          increase in federal TRIO programs, including Upward Bound, 
          to fund outreach, counseling, and educational support to 
          help disadvantaged students prepare for academic success in 
          college.  The budget will also include $35 million for a new 
          initiative to help disadvantaged students stay in college 
          and earn diplomas.