New initiative looks to use tech to help job seekers, small businesses

September 24, 2014, 11:14 PM UTC
International Leaders And Luminaries Attend Clinton Global Initiative
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 23: Former President Bill Clinton speaks during a breakout session hosted by Becky Quick, co-anchor of Squawk Box on CNBC at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), on September 23, 2014 in New York City. The annual meeting, established in 2005 by President Clinton, convenes global leaders to discuss solutions to world problems. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Photo by John Moore—Getty Images

Business and education leaders have joined a new initiative to use technology to help job-seekers and entrepreneurs learn new skills.

President Bill Clinton announced the new program – called Rework America, the Markle Economic Future Initiative – on Wednesday at a conference held by Clinton Global Initiative. It is co-chaired by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Zoë Baird, the CEO of tech-focused charity The Markle Foundation. (Baird was also Clinton’s failed nominee to be the first female U.S. Attorney General in 1993.)

The Markle Foundation is promising to pump $50 million into Rework America to spur the development of technology that can help job-seekers by helping to improve math, science and technology skills, among other things. The initiative will also look to create resources for small business owners who want to learn how to expand and enter new markets. According to a survey commissioned by The Markle Foundation, 86% of middle class Americans agreed that learning new skills later in life is necessary for an evolving job market.

“There is no challenge more important for the strength of our nation than the challenge of advancing economic opportunity for all Americans,” Baird said in a statement. “Americans are known for their creativity and entrepreneurship. By mastering innovations in learning and business growth, we can reach for a better future in which all Americans prosper in the networked world.”

Earlier this summer, Schultz’s work with The Markle Foundation inspired the Starbucks (SBUX) chair to form a partnership between the coffee giant and Arizona State University that makes Starbucks employees eligible for free online college tuition at ASU.

In addition to Baird and Schultz, the Rework America initiative’s members include: CEO Marc Benioff, ASU president Michael Crow, Harlem Children’s Zone president Geoffrey Canada, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Purdue University president and former Governor of Indiana Mitchell Daniels, Jr., former Governor of Utah Michael Leavitt, former 9/11 Commission director Philip Zelikow, and SUNY College at Old Westbury president Rev. Calvin Butts, III.

(Update: An earlier version of this article identified Michael Levitt as the president of Purdue University and the former Governor of Indiana. Levitt is the former Governor of Utah. Mitchell Daniels, Jr. is the former Governor of Indiana and is currently president of Purdue University. The article has been updated to reflect this correction.)