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Obama presses for biz-college partnerships on jobs

WASHINGTON - Reaching out to big business, President Barack Obama Monday announced a new program that links top companies with community colleges in hopes of ramping up America's job skills.

The partnership plan - called Skills for America's Future - is a key recommendation of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which met Monday with Obama at the White House.

The president said the plan aims to improve industry partnerships with community colleges and build a nationwide network to maximize workforce development.

"We want to make it easier to join students looking for jobs with businesses looking to hire," Obama said. "We want to put community colleges and employers together to create programs that match curricula in the classroom with the needs of the boardroom."

The initiative has the backing of Gap Inc., McDonald's, Accenture and other big-name companies.

The initiative to forge more partnerships between private industry and community colleges is the sort of model Suffolk County Community College has been using successfully for years to place its students in jobs and fill gaps in training and skills for local and state businesses, said SCCC president Shaun McKay.

The college has numerous workforce development partnerships, including skilled work in the renewable energy sector, McKay said Monday, adding that SCCC formed seven partnerships with Long Island hospitals to train nurses to help fill a nursing shortage.

"This is a timely discussion that's happening nationally, and community colleges are all excited about the potential of what this might turn into," McKay said. "We are flexible. We understand the business and industry sectors and understand the gaps in terms of training and retraining."

Officials at Nassau Community College also expressed enthusiasm for the plan.

"Nassau Community College is excited about the possibilities to expand partnerships in creating new job opportunities between private-sector employers and community colleges," Reginald Tuggle, associate vice president for marketing and communications at the school, said Monday.

"We're looking to see how we can take advantage of this initiative. We do have partnerships now and want to expand them."

The Skills for America's Future plan projects each state creating at least one high-impact partnership between industry and community colleges. It also foresees expanded partnerships helping achieve Obama's goal of an additional 5 million community college degrees and certificates by 2020.

With staff writer Keiko Morris

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