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Gore outlines tech training plans

The vice president heads a forum aimed at getting workers and students geared up for high-tech jobs.

Getting workers and students geared up for high-tech jobs was the focus of a forum led by Vice President Al Gore today.

The 21st Century Skills for 21st Century Jobs forum in Washington was attended by tens of thousands of people via satellite who spent the day hammering out strategies to meet the workforce demands for the next century.

"America's competitiveness and the prosperity of our people in a changing economy depend increasingly on high-skill, high-wage jobs," Gore said in a statement. "Realizing our potential will require investing in education and learning for all of our people throughout their lifetimes."

The main message: now more than ever, workers need continuous training to get lucrative jobs.

College graduates now earn 77 percent more than high school graduates--up from 58 percent in 1975, according to an interagency report released by the Clinton administration today. And eight of the ten fastest-growing jobs in the next ten years will require a college education or ongoing training, the report states.

"Between 1996 and 2006, the U.S. economy is projected to increase employment by 14 percent on average," the report by the Commerce, Labor, and Education departments concluded. "Jobs requiring a bachelor's degree will increase 25 percent, nearly double the predicted national average."

Most of those jobs will be related to the high-tech and services sector and computer skills will be a baseline requirement for many jobs. The information technology and services sectors also spend more on staff training.

"On one hand, a few companies make relatively large commitments to training. Companies like IBM, Motorola, and Federal Express spend between 3 and 5 percent of payroll on training their employees," the report states. "Over half of American manufacturers spend less than 1 percent of their payroll on training and 4 percent of manufacturing companies spend nothing."

Gore said he was forming a group of CEOs, college presidents, labor union leaders, cabinet members, and other public officials to recommend how communities, schools, and companies can prepare people for the New Economy's workforce needs and to identify successful programs and private-public partnerships.

The presidential candidate for 2000 highlighted the following new plans and existing efforts to train tech-savvy workers:

• About $60 million will go toward regional programs to retrain incumbent and dislocated workers through public-private partnerships. The program will be funded in part by a $500 fee paid by highly skilled foreign workers who apply for H-1B visas.

• America's Learning eXchange Web site will launch, giving people access to courses, workshops, and training programs for a wide range of jobs.

• An advisory committee will be created to figure out how the nation can help finance post-secondary education and training for workers through loans, grants, or tax incentives, for example.

• Up to ten communities will get an award and financial support each year for proving they have improved the skills of their workforce.

• President Clinton today signed an executive order that calls on government agencies to provide technology training for all employees.