ABC News’ Mary Bruce Reports:
DURHAM, NC – Following a meeting with his Jobs and Competitiveness Council today in Durham, N.C., President Obama announced an “all-hands-on-deck strategy” aimed at training 10,000 new American engineers every year and boosting private sector hiring.
“Right now, there are more than four job-seekers for every job opening in America. But when it comes to science and high-tech fields, the opposite is true: businesses like this tell me they’re having a hard time finding workers to fill their job openings,” Obama told workers at Cree, Inc., a manufacturer of energy efficient LED lighting.
Private sector companies will team up to promote science, technology, engineering and math education, offering students incentives to finish those degrees. Companies, like Intel, will also double their summer internship hiring.
“We know that if we’re going to maintain our leadership in technology and innovation, our best companies need the world’s brightest workers – American workers,” Obama said.
The president, who is facing a series of lagging economic indicators, highlighted the fact that 2 million private sector jobs have been added to the economy over the last 15 months, but said he was not yet satisfied.
“Not until everyone who wants a good job that offers a little security has one. Not until empty storefronts in town are open for business again. Not until working families feel that they’re moving forward again. That’s what drives me every day I go to work. You. Your families. Your jobs. Your dreams, and everything it takes to keep them in reach,” he said.
The president said that it would take the private sector, academia and government working together to turn the economy around and called for job creation in targeted, high growth sectors, like green energy.
“My Administration has invested heavily in clean energy manufacturing, because I want to see the LEDs and solar panels and wind turbines and electric cars of tomorrow made right here in the U.S.A,” Obama said announcing a “Better Buildings Initiative” aimed at “putting people back to work doing the work America needs done,” such as upgrading building to be more energy efficient.
“It will boost manufacturing of energy-efficient products. It will put contractors and construction workers back on the job. It’s a win-win-win proposition. Today, the members of my Jobs Council updated me on their efforts to push this initiative in the private sector,” the president said.
Today marks the second meeting of the Jobs Council, which is comprised of 26 private-sector industries. The first meeting was at the White House in February.
“We've been at work for the past 90 days to develop recommendations for a series of immediate, actionable steps to accelerate job creation. Today we are presenting an initial ‘progress report’ to the president that includes a series of steps that can help spur hiring in the short term in areas like construction, manufacturing, health care and tourism,” the head of the Jobs Council, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt wrote in an opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal coauthored with American Express CEO Ken Chennault.
“America needs more growth. The United States needs to reverse trends that developed over a long period of time, and the solutions aren't easy politically, socially or economically. The economic decisions we make now will determine American job creation and competitiveness in the years to come. Government, business and labor need to work together to get this done,” they wrote.
Earlier in the day the president toured Cree’s lighting product assembly facility with Immelt, Matthew Rose, Chairman & CEO of BNSF Railway, and Cree CEO Chuck Swoboda, stopping at different stations to speak with workers and see them in action.
"Keep up the great work! I’m proud of you," Obama told workers.
This is not the president’s first trip to Cree. Obama visited the manufacturer during the 2008 campaign and met with the CEO at the White House in July 2009. Vice President Biden also made a trip to the Cree facilities in Durham in March 2010.
Cree received a $39 million tax credit from the stimulus to create jobs at its Durham factory, which helped lead to the creation of 375 new factory jobs last year.
However, as Jon Karl reported, just over half of Cree’s 5,000 employees are in China, a fact mentioned on the company’s own website. The company has a massive 592,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Huizhou.
Today, Obama told Cree “you are helping lead the comeback of American manufacturing. This is a company where the future will be won.”
While today’s trip is aimed at jobs and the economy, there is an undertone of politics as Obama visits the battleground state. In 2008, Obama surprised Republicans when he won North Carolina, becoming the first Democrat in 32 years to carry the state. It was his narrowest victory margin in the country. Today, North Carolina has the 10th highest unemployment rate in the country.