Domestic policy was front and center during the first State of the Union Address of President Obama’s second term. The captitolPresident spent most of his speech calling for tax and entitlement reform, spending on education and energy, gun control and immigration reform. One item of particular importance to Corporate Voices and its partner companies was the President’s call for linking education with the demands of an evolving skills-based workforce.

He highlighted the need for America to redesign its high schools to improve the link between education and the skills employers are looking for. After noting that German students graduate from high  school with the equivalent of a technical degree from a U.S. community college, the President praised the work CorporatIBMe Voices’ partner company IBM is doing through its Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). P-TECH is a grade 9 through 14 school that produces students with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in technology.  The curriculum was developed in close collaboration with the New York public schools, the City University of New York and IBM, to provide students with the skills required for entry-level positions at IBM.

Calling on others to follow suit, President Obama promised the Department of Education will create incentives for schools that form new partnerships with colleges or employers, or develop science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes geared toward high-tech jobs. Corporate Voices is already highlighting many of these partnerships and success stories through its Learn and Earn initiative and its work with Year Up in the New Options Project.

The 113th Congress will soon begin to sort through issues such as reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Corporate Voices is well positioned to offer the business case on why partnerships such as P-TECH succeed and are necessary for helping to ensure our nation’s young adults are prepared with the skills needed in the 21st-century workforce. In collaboration with Year Up, Corporate Voices has already distributed a list of its policy priorities for the 113th Congress.

If you are a Corporate Voices member company and want to lend your voice to shaping education and workforce policy by joining the Corporate Voices Public Policy Task Force, please contact Nathan Constable (nconstable@corporatevoices.org). We hope to hold the first policy call in March following the 2013 Annual Partners Meeting.

Amidst the continuing economic downturn and increasing unease about the lingering high levels of national unemployment, President Obama is expected this evening to announce key investments for working families in his State of the Union Address.

The new policy initiatives he is expected to propose include doubling the child tax credit for middle class families, limiting student loan repayment rates to 10 percent of income above living expenses, creating required workplace IRAs, and expanding support for families balancing work with caring for elderly relatives.

Corporate Voices wholeheartedly supports initiatives to create lasting jobs, provide greater work-life balance and strengthen America’s economy for the long term. In fact, many key Corporate Voices’ initiatives echo the themes that are expected to be embraced by President Obama in his State of the Union Address.

Donna Klein, Executive Chair and Founder of Corporate Voices for Working Families, said: “All of us who are engaged in initiatives to improve the lives of working families and the prosperity of the United States economy are encouraged that President Obama is focusing the national agenda on measures to help workers and enable them to achieve a balance between work and family responsibilities.”

Klein was one of a select group of 130 national leaders from business, nonprofit organizations, and education who were invited by President Obama to share their ideas on job creation during the White House Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth in early December.

Corporate Voices will this week release its updated 2009 Employer Guide: Educate Your Employees About the Benefits They’ve Earned. The reference guide helps employers inform their employees about the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Medicaid, and other federal benefits to help workers keep more of what they earn.

Publications, research studies, and toolkits on a host of workforce readiness, flexibility, family economic stability, and work and family balance issues are available on the Corporate Voices web site at www.corporatevoices.org.

By Yvonne Siu