WASHINGTON — President Clinton used a futuristic student-made desk Wednesday to sign legislation aimed at preparing young people for good jobs if they are not college-bound.
The law is aimed at training the 75% of young Americans who move from school to the workplace without pursuing a four-year college degree. It is intended to address the growing gap in income between the college-educated and the rest of the work force.
Students generally would enroll in the programs in the 11th grade and continue in them for one or two years after graduation.
"We must not only create more jobs, we have to make it possible for people who work hard and do the right thing" to become members of the middle class, Clinton said at the signing ceremony.
The law is part of Clinton's overall education program, aimed at "lifetime learning" and symbolized by the Goals 2000 measure he signed earlier this year in an effort to raise education standards.
Under the legislation, the Education Department and the Labor Department will distribute $100 million this year to help states, communities, schools, employers and labor unions start building a school-to-work network.
Education Secretary Richard W. Riley and Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich said they hope Congress will make $300 million available next year and more in the future.
Clinton said the aluminum and smoke-colored plexiglass desk he used to sign the bill will stand as an emblem for the new program.
It was made by students in the Manufacturing Technology Program in Flint, Mich.
"This desk symbolizes what this is all about," Clinton said, adding that the Michigan students were told it had to be inexpensive and easy to move and reassemble.