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Obama says Wal-Mart, Apple in effort to bolster hiring


US President Barack Obama said on Thursday that Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Apple Inc and Ford Motor Co are among about 300 companies that have pledged to take part in an initiative to help the long-term unemployed find jobs.

Obama was convening a meeting of company chief executive officers at the White House yesterday to advance a program he laid out in his State of the Union address earlier this week.

The administration and the companies will “establish best practices” so that they do not “screen people out of the hiring process just because they’ve been out of work for a long time,” Obama said in an interview with CNN.

He did not say which companies would attend the meeting.

While the US unemployment rate has declined to 6.7 percent, almost 4 million people have been out of work for more than six months, three times the pre-recession average.

As part of his vow to bypass a politically divided Congress to advance his economic agenda, Obama is combining executive actions with attempts to enlist the aid of US companies to meet his goals. He has a separate effort with companies including Microsoft Corp, Sprint Corp and Verizon Communications Inc to help bring broadband and wireless technology to more public schools.

Obama was in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he used the backdrop of a General Electric Co plant to highlight the need for better job training to ensure that companies can continue to expand manufacturing capacity.

He said US Vice President Joe Biden will lead a review of federal job-training programs to ensure that the skills they teach meet the demands of employers. As part of the initiative, Obama said he was also setting aside US$500 million for community colleges, rewarding them for creating the best job-driven training partnerships with employers and industry.

“Most folks’ wages haven’t gone up in over a decade,” Obama said in front of crowd of GE employees and local and state officials. There are “too many Americans working harder than ever just to get by.”

The Republican leadership of the House responded to Obama’s remarks in a letter to the president on Thursday, saying Biden’s review of job-training programs is not needed because the Government Accountability Office just completed one on Jan. 28.

The letter, signed by House Speaker John Boehner and the three other Republican leaders in the chamber, also cited legislation passed by the House in March, “which would consolidate the myriad of federal job training programs to focus resources on the programs that work, more closely link employment training to available jobs.”

They urged Obama to press Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, to act on the House-passed bill “so that we may resolve any differences that exist” so it could become law by the end of this month.

Obama’s trip to GE’s Gas Engines manufacturing facility in the southeastern part Wisconsin marked his second day of travel outside Washington to promote the agenda outlined in the State of the Union address on Tuesday.

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