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Obama: Young people aren't aware of opportunities in manufacturing

President Obama speaks at Millennium Steel Service in Princeton, Indiana, on October 3, 2014 as part of Manufacturing Day to discuss investments in American manufacturing.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama on Friday toured a steel plant in Princeton, Indiana on "National Manufacturing Day" to build more interest in resuscitating the middle class through a stronger manufacturing sector.

"Too many young people do not understand the opportunities that exist in manufacturing," Mr. Obama said during a town hall event at Millennium Steel.

"Because so many plants were shut down and offshoring was taking place, a lot of people gave up on the idea of manufacturing."

However, for a lot of young people, he said, "manufacturing offers real opportunities... Not everybody wants to sit behind a desk, pushing paper all day long."

Earlier Friday, the Labor Department reported that there were 248,000 jobs added to the economy last month, bringing the unemployment rate down to 5.9 percent -- its lowest level in six years. Since February 2010, there have been 700,000 jobs added to the manufacturing sector, the fastest pace of job growth the sector has seen since the 1990s.

The president on Friday announced a new "manufacturing hub" the administration is launching to link manufacturers with universities and researchers, so they can develop technologies that will be key for future growth. The new "hub" will be focused on Integrated Photonics, the use of light for applications like developing lasers and telecommunications. The hub will be funded with more than $100 million from the Defense Department and $100 million in private investment.

Mr. Obama touted the job growth announced earlier in the day and promoted the economic policies he says will further stimulate the economy, such as a higher minimum wage.

"Corporate balance sheet in America are as strong as they've been in history," he said. "It's not as if companies don't have some room to pay their workers more, they're just not doing it."