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Obama stresses need for manufacturing job training

With jobs and the economy topping Americans' concerns, President Obama headed to a community college in Northern Virginia to highlight the need to train workers for the manufacturing jobs he believes are key to strengthening the economy.

The president returned to North Virginia Community College to announce several new initiatives that are part of the "Skills for America's Future" program launched last year to focus on workforce training, including plans to help half-a-million community college students get industry-recognized credentials that will helped them get skilled jobs, provide more opportunities for at-risk youth and provide new online tools to connect workers with employers.

The president toured labs at the college's Alexandria campus where students are trained to work on advanced vehicles, before delivering brief remarks.

"Right now there are people across America with talents just waiting to be tapped, sparks waiting to be lit," he said. "Our job is to light them and there's no time to lose when we've got folks looking for work, when we've got companies that need to stay competitive in this 21st Century economy and when we know that we've gotta rebuild the middle class and a lot of that's going to have to do how well we do in manufacturing and how well we do in jobs that are related to making products here in the United States of America."

Obama also pushed Congress to pass -- or reauthorize -- the Workforce Investment Act, a federal job training program.

The U.S. economy added just 54,000 jobs in May, growing at much-slower pace than expected and not nearly quickly enough to put a dent in the unemployment rate, which ticked up to 9.1 percent. The economy is almost certainly going to take center stage in next year's presidential election.

Today's speech was aimed at showing the president is concerned about the issue at the top of voters' minds and is doing everything possible to tackle it. Still, there is not much appetite in Congress for more stimulus and while the president argued manufacturing training programs were necessary to provide companies with the skilled workers they need, employment in that sector actually fell slightly -- by 5,000 jobs -- in May.

Obama held a town hall on the debt and deficit at the community college's Annandale Campus in April.