Rubio at CPAC: Too many liberal arts grads, not enough plumbers

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Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio gave a short speech on Thursday’s first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference, avoiding the sensitive topic of immigration reform and instead emphasized his pro-life stance, traditional marriage and his belief that many Americans can no longer attain the American Dream.

Education was a main focal point of the speech. Rubio urged the friendly CPAC crowd to focus on the concerns of middle class and blue-collar Americans, saying that vocational career pathways are both admirable and necessary.

“We should encourage career education,” Rubio said, presenting the idea during his speech as something of an aside. “Not everyone has to go to a four-year liberal arts college. We still need plumbers. We still need carpenters.”

Rubio suggested that there three million unfilled jobs in the United States because Americans don’t have the skills to do those jobs.

“Why aren’t we graduating more kids not just with a high school diploma but with an industry certification and a career — a real middle class career?” he also asked.

The first-term senator focused considerably on the $1 trillion student-debt crisis, noting that American college graduates in massive numbers are failing to find jobs that match their costly degrees — or pay enough so that recent grads can pay back their student loans.

Rubio warned the crowd about the rising number of young Americans who are unable to pay their student-loan debt.

“It is the next big bubble in America,” he predicted. “I know something about it. I graduated with over $100,000 in student loans.”