WHITE HOUSE— President Obama and the CEOs of major U.S. companies will formally announce Friday a pledge to do more to spur hiring of the long-term unemployed.
The initiative is part of Obama's pledge in his State of the Union Address to use executive powers to take actions that will help create jobs, even in the absence of specific legislative action by Congress. Obama spent Thursday in the U.S. Midwest and South where he talked about the initiative.
"I’ve been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at that new job and new chance to support their families; this week, many will come to the White House to make that commitment real," he said.
Obama has secured commitments from companies such as Apple, Ford and Walmart to observe best practices, and not discriminate in hiring against people out of work for a long time.
Friday's announcement comes after he spent two days traveling across the country talking about the need to provide more opportunity for Americans still struggling in the economy.
At a General Electric facility in Waukesha, Wisconsin that produces engines for oil and gas fields, he spotlighted a program that trains students in manufacturing and construction skills.
He called the plant an example of how to train people for skilled manufacturing jobs and ultimately also help bring jobs back from overseas.
"You can make a really good living and have a great career without getting a four-year college education as long as you get the skills and the training that you need," he said.
Obama was introduced by 26-year-old Reggie Troop, who was formerly unemployed facing difficulties supporting his family of four. Troop said he benefited from training and now works as a machine operator.
"I am fortunate to provide a great living for my family, I get to work for a great company with a union, like GE that has many opportunities to be successful, and I get to meet and greet with the president of the United States of America," he said.
Obama signed an executive order directing Vice President Joe Biden to oversee a review of federal job training programs.
From Wisconsin, Obama flew to Nashville, Tennessee and McGavock High School, where companies are supporting a program to match student education with skills needed by employers.
Education, he said, is critical to a new economy.
"There is no child that we should let slip simply because of politics or because adults can't get their act together. We have got to make sure that we're reaching every single one of them as fast as we can, and right now we're not doing that," he said.
Opposition Republicans are challenging Obama on his State of the Union agenda. They also are casting themselves in a more positive light as being open to cooperation.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor spoke at the Republicans' annual retreat.
"The discussion at this retreat is going to be not just about opposing the policies that this president has been about over the last several years, and an America that is not working for people, but it is to craft an alternative for the people of this country, so we can see an America that works for everybody," said Cantor.
In a letter to the president, Republicans point to measures passed by the Republican-controlled House, including one on job training, that have not been acted upon by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
They identify natural gas production, workplace rules and federally funded research as areas that hold potential for cooperation, and also are rolling out proposals on immigration reform.