Delayed by potential Iran deal, President Barack Obama heralds Louisville tech company in pitch for TechHire initiative

04/02/2015 10:28 PM

After touring downtown Louisville’s communications and software development company Indatus about three hours behind schedule Thursday, President Barack Obama stepped to the podium and apologized.

“First of all, sorry I’m late,” he said. “I had a couple things I had to do.”

Despite a lengthy delay in the wake of a breakthrough in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, Obama held Indatus as an example of “what’s possible in developing the kind of innovation and job creation here in the 21st century knowing we can succeed.”

The technological company’s success, he said, demonstrates the importance of his administration’s new TechHire initiative.

TechHire couples local governments with employers in supporting “innovative job training programs like online classes, coding boot camps, community college courses designed by local employers,” he said.

“Eastern Kentucky is a TechHire community,” Obama said in his nearly 11-minute speech to about 150 attendees. “So is Louisville. More than 20 employers have joined it so far, including Indatus. You’re mentoring students at Code Louisville and you’ve pledged to hire their graduates, and that’s what smart training looks like.”

“My administration is proud to be investing in Code Louisville because we want more places to follow Kentucky’s example,” the Democratic president continued. “We should invest in what works — apprenticeships that give on-the-job training, gives them industry credentials that let anybody who can do the job get the job, whether they’re self-taught or have a degree — and the budget that I sent to Congress includes these priorities.”

Obama’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes $300 million for partnerships between governments and regional employers in crafting assessments so more can attain employment in high-tech jobs.

Higher wages offered in the information technology sector are part of the impetus behind the TechHire initiative, he said, noting workers in such jobs typically earn 1.5 times the average private sector pay.

The budget offered by congressional Republicans would cut current job training for 2.2 million people across the country and 28,800 in Kentucky, Obama said.

“We can’t prioritize tax cuts for folks at the very top and sacrifice the kinds of job-training efforts and apprenticeships that our young people are going to need,” he said.

The president’s speech can be viewed here:

Gov. Steve Beshear, who met the president at Indatus, said he thanked Obama for his workforce development program — after also congratulating him for striking a tentative framework in nuclear talks with Iran.

Obama also shared his praise for Beshear, who was a guest at last year’s State of the Union Address for Kentucky’s implementation of the politically divisive Affordable Care Act.

“He thanked us for showing the world that the Affordable Care Act can work,” Beshear said of his conversation with the president.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, who flew to Louisville with Obama on Air Force One, said the president understands the need for a well-trained workforce in the technological field.

The Louisville Democrat called Obama’s funding request “essential to make sure that we’re competitive” in an evolving economy.

“I don’t know what could make more sense than that, that we want to help train and educate people for the job that exist now and will exist in the future,” he said.

Potential Iran deal rankles Israel but Yarmuth optimistic

During their flight Thursday, Yarmuth said he and Obama discussed a phone conversation between the president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the potential nuclear agreement with Iran, the congressman told reporters after Obama’s remarks. The president praised the potential nuclear agreement in a press conference from the White House’s Rose Garden before boarding Air Force One for Louisville.

Although he declined to reveal specifics, Yarmuth said Obama explained to Netanyahu that options beyond the nuclear framework forged between Iran and world leaders “would not be nearly as effective in holding off a potential Iranian nuclear threat.”

Netanyahu disagreed, according to a report on the phone conversation by the Associated Press. Any agreement based on the framework announced Thursday “would threaten the survival of Israel” and only promote Iranian “aggression and terror,” the prime minister said in the report.

Yarmuth, though, said the framework of a nuclear agreement with Iran “holds the promise of being a truly historic and important resolution of a very, very serious problem.”

“The framework, to me, is something that is far superior to any alternative when you’re discussing the Iranian nuclear potential because the alternatives are either try to sustain a sanction regime by ourselves because we have no guarantee that the Chinese and the Russians and the French and the Germans would remain part of one,” he said.

“And then the alternative to that is military force, which I think would be disastrous, so I think of all the options available to us, I think this is the best.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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