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2016 WATCH: Marco Rubio's Big Education Reform Speech

Alexis Levinson

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a short speech about  education  on Wednesday, discussing the need to modernize education for a new century and ensure that students receive the skills necessary to succeed in the changing job market.

Speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as part of a larger event on coordination between the business community and educational institutions, the likely 2016 presidential contender said that a “fundamental obstacle to  economic progress  is the skills gap that exists in our nation. The fact of the matter is that millions of our people do not have the skills that they need for the 21st century.”

Rubio said that many students are now older and have some work experience.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand why we have stigmatized career education in this country,” Rubio said.

He called for federal  financial  aid to be extended to non-traditional learning institutions, such as online courses or technical training, and for students to be provided with more information about potential costs and salaries before taking out a student loan.

It was a short, almost perfunctory-seeming speech, running just over 12 minutes in length. The senator did not stick around afterward, chatting only briefly with several people before making a hasty exit.

Rubio discussed education as an important factor in preserving the American middle class, a message he has seized on in his recent speeches, and one that is expected to carry over into a potential presidential run.

In speaking about education, he ventured into the territory of one of his likely 2016 competitors, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has made it almost a signature issue of his governorship. Jindal spoke at the Brookings Institute here last month on the subject, and he has made education reform and  school  choice a big part of his agenda as governor.

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