The U.S. Labor Department has granted $14.7 million to Arkansas’s two-year colleges to speed up degree and certificate completion and better tailor training to job needs. The idea is to create more people ready for high-skill, higher-wage jobs. A complete news release follows on the jump.

This is also a good opportunity to link to a column today by Joe Nocera in the New York Times on ways in which the U.S. has competed successfully for manufacturing jobs with efficient plants full of robotics. He visited a North Carolina plant stocked with machinists trained by local community colleges. In higher skill jobs, we can compete with China, particularly when you consider shipping costs and other factors. Downside: The huge investments by cities and states in corporate welfare ($28,000 per worker at a Caterpillar plant), not to mention significant private investment, don’t produce nearly as many jobs as old-fashioned manufacturing once produced. This doesn’t make the jobs a bad thing, but it illustrates the long road of strengthening a manufacturing base.