Obama highlights training programs in State of Union follow-up

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will highlight innovative job and skills training in the US heartland on Thursday on the second leg of a tour to draw attention to his proposals for improving the fortunes of low and middle-income Americans, the White House said.

Following his State of the Union speech Tuesday, in which he called for greater economic fairness in a nation still recovering from the deep 2007-2009 recession, Obama is due to visit a job training centre in Wisconsin and an innovative high school in Tennessee.

He stumped for a higher minimum wage and improved savings opportunities for workers in stops in Maryland and Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

The president pledged in his address to Congress to review and retool federal job training programs, saying such courses needed to do better at landing their graduates in well-paying jobs.

On Thursday, he is due to drop by General Electric's Gas Engines facility in Waukesha, Wisconsin, near Milwaukee, where a programme run with input from employers, unions, community groups, and colleges trains students in manufacturing and construction skills, the White House said in a statement.

Obama is set to kick off an effort led by Vice President Joe Biden to identify effective types of job training and a competition for $500 million in funds for training initiatives.

That step is an example of how the president pledged in his speech on Tuesday not to wait for congressional action to move ahead on his priorities. Obama told lawmakers in his address that they could do their part to support job training by providing more funding for proven job-training programs.

He is also scheduled to visit McGavock High School in Nashville, the site of a ground-breaking programme that seeks to align students' educations more closely with employers' needs and job skills.

McGavock is Nashville's largest school and had been on track for state takeover because of poor performance. However, the city redesigned large high schools and brought in companies to help design job-related educational specializations.

The president emphasised in his annual speech to the nation Tuesday that he wants to improve education from pre-kindergarten through college and praised teachers and principals in schools"from Tennessee to Washington, D.C." for better preparing students for the changing economic landscape.