Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, left, visit with Monroe Community College student Robin Angevine-Funderburk during a tour of the precision machining lab on Jan. 29 in Rochester, N.Y. (Jamie Germano/AP via Democrat & Chronicle)
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Recalling his days as an upstate New York college student, Vice President Joe Biden said during a visit Wednesday that it seemed back then that the region’s major employers like Eastman Kodak, Bausch and Lomb and Xerox would go strong forever.
But “Kodak’s not making a lot of film these days; a lot of things have changed,” Biden said at Monroe Community College, which he held up as a model training ground for the changing employment needs of companies.
Biden’s trip came a day after President Obama, in his State of the Union address, directed the vice president to lead a review of federal job-training programs.
“Right now, 100,000 skilled manufacturing jobs are going unfilled, not because of the lack of talent but lack of expertise,” said Biden, who attended Syracuse University.
Biden, along with his wife, Jill, a community college professor in northern Virginia, praised the community college’s partnerships with regional companies and use of real-time labor market data to shape the college’s programming by tailoring it to specific jobs.
“These are partnerships that change lives,” Jill Biden said.
Earlier, the Bidens toured a campus precision machining shop, stopping to talk with Bob Krest, 54, who entered the program after losing his job making film at Kodak after 36 years.
Kodak, which in the 1980s employed 145,000 people, emerged from bankruptcy in September as a smaller company focused on commercial and packaging printing.
After the address, Krest said he was confident in his future job prospects.
“It was a little scary at first because I hadn’t been in a school system or education system for so many years,” he said. “I came right from high school to work for Kodak. But there’s opportunities out there.”
The vice president, picking up on other State of the Union themes, also supported raising the minimum wage, investing in prekindergarten and closing the gap between what men and women earn, drawing sustained applause.
“This is crazy,” he said.
“We’re out of this recession. It’s time to start improving,” he said.
While Biden was in Rochester, House Speaker John Boehner’s office issued a statement saying the Government Accountability Office already completed a study about government job training programs before the House passed a related bill last year.
“It should make the assignment the president gave him last night really easy,” the statement said.