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In Nashua, Vice President Joe Biden applauds N.H. worker training programs

  • Vice President Joe Biden picks up the phone while visiting the New Hampshire Works Center in Nashua with Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez (second from right) and Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.  Both the vice president and secretary of labor spoke at the center commending New Hampshire's efforts to keep the unemployment rate low.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Vice President Joe Biden picks up the phone while visiting the New Hampshire Works Center in Nashua with Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez (second from right) and Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau on Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Both the vice president and secretary of labor spoke at the center commending New Hampshire's efforts to keep the unemployment rate low.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the NH Works Center in Nashua as Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez (left) and Governor Maggie Hassan listen on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the NH Works Center in Nashua as Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez (left) and Governor Maggie Hassan listen on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Vice President Joe Biden listens as Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez spoke at the NH Works Center in Nashua on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Vice President Joe Biden listens as Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez spoke at the NH Works Center in Nashua on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez spoke at the NH Works Center in Nashua on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez spoke at the NH Works Center in Nashua on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Vice President Joe Biden picks up the phone while visiting the New Hampshire Works Center in Nashua with Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez (second from right) and Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.  Both the vice president and secretary of labor spoke at the center commending New Hampshire's efforts to keep the unemployment rate low.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the NH Works Center in Nashua as Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez (left) and Governor Maggie Hassan listen on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Vice President Joe Biden listens as Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez spoke at the NH Works Center in Nashua on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez spoke at the NH Works Center in Nashua on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.  <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

Gov. Maggie Hassan received a vice presidential-sized pat on the back yesterday when Joe Biden traveled to Nashua to applaud the state’s workforce training programs for the long-term unemployed.

“I’m more optimistic about America’s future today, relative to the world, than I ever have been in my life. And the key is having the best educated population in the world that’s connected to the major new industries and needs that this country’s going to experience in the next years and decades,” Biden said. “That’s what we’re trying to get done and, again, governor, you have done a great, great job with it in New Hampshire.”

Biden and U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez appeared at NH Works in Nashua, one of 12 similar facilities across the state. The program is a partnership between state agencies and community organizations that uses federal money to provide job training. It targets those who have been out of work for more than 15 weeks by offering training in skills that match employer needs. Employers are reimbursed for up to 90 percent of the new employee’s wages during the first six months of their on-the-job training. Most of New Hampshire’s programs began before Hassan became governor, but she’s made workforce training a large part of her policy platform.

New Hampshire’s February unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, more than two points below the national rate. The money for on-the-job training comes from a federal program, but New Hampshire also runs a state program called Return to Work that lets job seekers work for a tryout period while still receiving unemployment benefits. Hassan has also expanded a program called WorkReadyNH that partners with the community college system to teach “soft skills,” such as time management and appropriate work behaviors, said Michael Power, community outreach administrator for NH Works.

“We’re here because we want to learn from you,” Perez said yesterday.

Connecting the unemployed with companies that need them is a key to expanding access to middle-class opportunities, such as owning a home and sending children to college, Biden said. He cited a recent study showing more than half of U.S. manufacturing companies that have outsourced jobs to China want to return operations to the United States. It’s critical that American workers have the skills they need to get those jobs, he said.

“The program that you have here in NH Works is grounded in real needs, real people and real results,” Biden said.

When people who have worked in the same field for years unexpectedly lose their jobs, it can be a daunting task to enter a new field, Biden said. Employment centers such as NH Works give those unemployed people someone to talk to, someone to help them rebuild their resume and someone to connect them to possible new jobs. The program also gives employers the confidence they need to hire new workers who may not have every skill needed for the job.

Biden mentioned Darmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center as one of the employers taking advantage of key job training programs. The country will need more than 240,000 medical assistants by 2020, Biden said, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock is running an apprenticeship program to help train people in this field.

“This is just one of the many ideas that we can take nationwide: Train our workforce, help the long-term unemployed, get employers good people they need to compete, just connect them,” Biden said.

Biden also took his visit to New Hampshire as an opportunity to praise Hassan for the state’s passage of a Medicaid expansion plan. The plan has now passed both the House and Senate and will go to Hassan’s desk later this week. The plan, which relies on receiving waivers from the federal government, would use federal Medicaid dollars to help low-income people buy private health insurance.

While Hassan appeared with Biden, Democratic U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen did not. New Hampshire Republicans took Biden’s visit as an opportunity to tie New Hampshire Democrats to what they call Biden and President Obama’s failed “job-killing policies.”

“New Hampshire Democrats can run, but they cannot hide from their unwavering support for the failed Obama policies that are crushing small businesses and forcing working families to lose their health insurance,” Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the state Republican Party, said in a statement.

Hassan, for her part, said she was glad to have Biden in town.

This “gives me a chance to remind the rest of the country, especially the vice president . . . what a special state we are,” Hassan said. “We engage with each other, we roll up our sleeves, we find our way forward.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

In other Nashua news . . . NH's Democratic reps run the other way as fast as they can when they see Biden's motorcade approaching.

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