the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Pittsburgh, PA, 4/16/2014

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

2:14 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Welcome aboard Air Force One this morning as we make our way to the great state of Pennsylvania, or Commonwealth, rather.  And, as you know, the President has an event today and he'll be joined by the Vice President to talk about skills development and training.  And I have with me for this briefing, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.  So what I’d like to do is have Secretary Pritzker talk to you a little bit about what the President will be doing at today’s event and the broader agenda.  Then she can take questions on those subjects, and then I'll stay for questions on other subjects, if you have any.

And with that, I give you Secretary Pritzker.

SECRETARY PRITZKER:  Hi.  How are you?  Let me just give a little bit of background and, first of all, talking about skills and workforce training.  This is a subject that’s very personal to me.  I started working on this in 2009 when Rahm Emanuel was chief of staff, and we started and created something called Skills for America’s Future, which was a White House initiative in partnership with the Aspen Institute.  And then in 2012, we created something called Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, which is a workforce intermediary. 

And the fundamental premise here is that we have to engage with businesses in order to get workers the skills that they need.  And businesses need to define the skillsets that they’re looking for in order to meet their needs.  To do this you have to break silos; we have to break down silos between businesses, between the community colleges and the other workforce training organizations, the universities and local governments in order to deliver these skills.

Today what we're doing is we're announcing incentives that will help -- that will expand upon something that's a fact:  American business today spends $400 billion training their own workers.  What we want to do is incentivize them to take that training and make it available to others in the community through partnerships with community colleges, through increasing the number of workforce intermediaries, through expanding the number of apprenticeship programs, and also through -- to create and emphasize the value of industry-recognized, portable, stackable credentials.  So having industry and industry associations work to create credentials that are recognized across the country and that have real value for a worker who’s getting those credentials. 

And today is all about the scaling what works.  We have two programs that we’re announcing today:  a $500 million tax grant program that will start taking applications today; and those applications will be due July 7th.  And what’s new about this program is it's an incentive to scale, because the applications will have -- each of the applicants have to work with a national industry association.

The second thing is it builds upon something that’s been part of tax grants, which is that the community colleges have to partner with employers when they make their applications. 

The second program is a program focused -- $100 million that will start in the fall, focused on apprenticeships.  The United States is falling behind in the number of apprenticeships that we have compared to our global competitors.  And so the goal is to expand the number of apprenticeship programs and also to award new models of apprenticeships.

So if you think of, historically, apprenticeships have been mostly in the trades.  But we want to do apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing, in IT, in health care in sectors of our economy that are growing.  And what’s really cool is this builds upon work that is being done by the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which is an effort that’s co-chaired by me and by the head of the NEC, Jeff Zients.  And so simultaneously, today, Dow, Alcoa and Siemens are going to announce two new apprenticeship programs:  One that’s in northern California for welders, and one that’s in southern Texas for maintenance technicians.

And then South Central College in Minneapolis is going to work with the 24 colleges that exist in Minnesota to develop apprenticeships in mechatronics.  And then Harper College, which is based outside of Chicago, another community college, they’re going to create college credit for vets, for our veterans, that also contain apprenticeships attached in advanced manufacturing, including logistics and supply chain management.  And then the AMP leadership is also going to create a how-to manual as to how to then replicate these types of programs.

And, as you know, the President’s budget calls for $2 billion in funding for apprenticeships.  These programs are all ways for us to get started today. 

Q    Is there any way to quantify how many people will be helped by what’s being announced today? 

SECRETARY PRITZKER:  No.  That question was asked yesterday, and the NEC is working with Labor.  We’ll know once the grants are completed; they have to estimate the number of people that they’ll help.

Q    Did you say there’s $2 billion?  Would that be in the budget proposals for apprenticeships?

SECRETARY PRITZKER:  -- in the budget proposal for apprenticeships, yes.   

Q    And a similar question -- did you say that American businesses spend $400 billion --“b”?

SECRETARY PRITZKER:  Billion dollars training their own workers.

Q    The apprenticeships -- like, how many of those will be available?  To anyone at any university, or any level of education?  Or is it only community colleges that people apply  through?

SECRETARY PRITZKER:  The idea is to use these programs and replicate them -- replicate the ones that work.  What we do know is 87 percent of people who go through apprenticeship programs end up with jobs.

Anything else?  All right, I’ll hand you back over.

MR. CARNEY:  Okay.  Any other questions?

Q    What’s the status of your decision on a non-lethal aid package for Ukraine?

MR. CARNEY:  We’re actively considering forms of assistance, the kinds of assistance that we may be able to provide to Ukraine.  We’re reviewing requests from the Ukrainian government.  As I indicated yesterday, we are not considering lethal assistance, but I’m not going to itemize the types of assistance that are under consideration. 

I would note that just the other day Secretary Lew and his Ukrainian counterpart signed an agreement that allows for the provision of up to $1 billion of loan guarantees to Ukraine, and that’s part of our effort to help Ukraine stabilize its economy as it focuses on moving forward towards national elections on May 25. 

Q    Is there any reaction from the White House to NATO’s decision to increase its military footprint there in the eastern part of --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we’re obviously a significant member of NATO and fully endorse the actions that the Alliance has taken to reassure NATO members and to bolster NATO’s presence in the Baltic nations.

Q    And what about the meeting tomorrow?  What is the United States expecting out of that?  I mean, what are your expectations?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, Secretary Kerry, as you know, is on his way now to Geneva for tomorrow’s meeting with officials from the Ukrainian government, the Russian government and the European Union.  This will be the first opportunity for this contact group to meet.  And we expect the conversation to focus on the need to deescalate, the need for Russia to demobilize its troop presence on the border with Ukraine, the need for armed separatist groups within Ukraine to disband and disarm, and for the Ukrainian government to discuss the measures it intends to take when it comes to constitutional reform and decentralization. 

So it’s an important meeting, but it is also important to note that talk is one thing but action is another.  And we continue to call on Russia to take action that deescalates the situation and the tensions in Ukraine by returning its forces to their pre-crisis positions and numbers; moving its forces from the Ukrainian border as well from Crimea; ceasing its support for armed separatist groups that have seized government buildings, blockaded roads and stockpiled weapons in eastern Ukraine; and engage directly in a dialogue with Ukraine about its concerns when it comes to ethnic Russians in parts of Ukraine.

Q    Jay, has the administration briefed any U.S. companies doing business in Russia on the effect of additional sanctions?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have the answer to that question.  You might want to ask the Department of Treasury when it comes to those kinds of discussions.

Q    A quick follow-up.  Has the administration urged any companies to pull back on business that they do with Russia to help magnify the government sanctions?

MR. CARNEY:  We take concrete actions authorized through the executive orders the President has signed.  I think you’ve seen the sanctions that have been imposed, and I can tell you that we are actively reviewing further sanctions at this time. 

Q    Are you prepared to impose these new sanctions based on the results of tomorrow’s meeting?

MR. CARNEY:  We are actively preparing new sanctions.  We are also looking at tomorrow’s meeting for an indication that Russia will, or intends to pursue a path of deescalation rather than escalation.

Q    And does it feel like events in eastern Ukraine are spinning out of control?  We’ve seen separatists take command of some of the armored personnel carriers and waving Russian flags.

MR. CARNEY:  There’s no question that what we’ve seen in terms of the actions by armed separatists in eastern Ukraine has been destabilizing in Ukraine.  And as I noted earlier in the week, these groups have clearly coordinated their actions and received support from the outside.  And in many cases they don’t have the support in any visible way of the populations in the cities or regions where they’re occupying buildings. 

The best way to deescalate the situation in Ukraine is for these armed separatists to disband and disarm.  And we, again, note the fact that the Ukrainian government has approached this serious challenge in a measured and responsible way.  These provocations are clearly designed to destabilize the country, and the Ukrainian government has responded with admirable restraint.  And I say that while also acknowledging that it is certainly appropriate for Ukraine to take action to restore law and order, but we believe that they should continue to do so in a measured and responsible way.

Q    Jay, on another topic, there are reports out of negotiations in Michigan, in Detroit, to move $100 million of federal funds from state to help relieve blight in Detroit, thus I guess alleviating or freeing another $100 million to help the pensions there.  Can you confirm those meetings?  Do you have any comment on them?  And is that counter to the President’s explicit, I guess, words that he would not relieve pensions in flailing cities?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I haven’t seen the reports so I’m afraid I can’t offer any comment on them, but I’ll take the question. 

Q    One more on sanctions, Jay.  The State Department said today that we have additional sanctions prepared.  It sounds like they’re all ready to go. 

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we certainly had the opportunity to review the options available to us when it comes to imposing new sanctions, and that work has been ongoing over the past weeks since the President signed the second of two executive orders.  So it is accurate to say that we have additional sanctions prepared, and we’ll impose them as appropriate.

Q    Do you have updates on the sinking of the South Korean ferry ship?  Any updated information or anything?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t, Darlene.  Let me just check here.

Q    The President will be there next week.

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, and our deepest condolences go out to the loved one of those who lost lives onboard the South Korean ferry.  And the U.S. stands ready to provide any assistance needed.  The 7th Fleet is ready to assist with the search-and-rescue effort, and the USS Bonhomme Richard has moved to the area to assist the Republic of Korea with search-and-rescue operations.

Q    The Bonhomme Richard?

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, here’s the spelling.

Q    It’s French.    

MR. CARNEY:  The French.  Yes, you’re embarrassing me, but yes it looks like we have a ship with a French name.  Bonhomme Richard.

Q    Just on the sanctions, you’re talking about -- you’re not talking about sanctions against the key sectors of the Russian economy, are you?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, I’m not going to elaborate until we’re ready to announce new sanctions what the next step in sanctioning will be.  I think it’s important to note that the authorities provided by the executive orders give us a great deal of flexibility when it comes to imposing sanctions on individuals, on entities, and authorizes the Treasury Department to identify sectors of the economy that can be sanctioned.

I think the authorities that we have are flexible because the President wanted to be able to impose costs on Russia commensurate with the action that Russia has taken.  In other words, if and as Russia escalates, the cost will escalate as well.

Q    Talks in Geneva are scheduled for just tomorrow, right?

MR. CARNEY:  That’s my understanding, but the State Department might have more information.  I understand that Secretary Kerry will also meet with Lady Ashton and his Ukrainian counterpart, as well as at least -- probably as well as Foreign Minister Lavrov.

Q    They could be extended if there were to be something --

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I don’t know if that’s the case.  I think, at least as far as I know, the plan is for meetings tomorrow.

Q    Would the sanctions be likely to be imposed before or after the meeting tomorrow?

MR. CARNEY:  I would just say that we’re prepared to impose new sanctions.  We are obviously focused on finding a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, and that is the purpose of the meeting tomorrow.  So we are going to participate in that meeting with an eye towards evaluating whether or not Russia is serious about deescalating, or whether or not Russia will acknowledge that the Ukrainian government has in a very responsible way taken steps to commit itself to constitutional reform and to making changes when it comes to the centralized nature of authority within Ukraine, to decentralize it to the regions.  And that’s what we’re going to be looking for in this meeting.

Q    Thanks.

MR. CARNEY:  Thank you, all.

END
2:34 P.M. EDT