Former President Bill Clinton today praised a pioneering career-training program for Philadelphia high school students, saying it was the kind of program that improves students' lives and the economy.

"I love what Philadelphia Academies do, and I only wish every child in America had access to them," Clinton told approximately 150 business and nonprofit leaders during a brief address at the National Constitution Center.

Philadelphia Academies, a nonprofit headed by Lisa Nutter, Mayor Nutter's wife, promotes a schools-in-school model of career academies inside large comprehensive high schools. It is involved with 28 academy programs that operate at 16 city high schools.

Clinton's talk capped an afternoon focused on ensuring high school students are equipped with the skills needed for 21st Century jobs. A panel of experts who participated in a forum earlier in the afternoon concluded that the Philadelphia Academies model of creating small career academies inside large comprehensive high schools and providing mentors and job experience for students had an impressive 40-year record of success.

Clinton thanked Philadephia Academies "for setting a standard for creating opportunities for young people in creating a culture in which they can thrive."

He said it was appropriate the event on jobs and career education for youth was being held at the Constitution Center, adding: ". . .the fact that we're having it here is relevant because improving the quality of education and the success by young people is critical not only to bringing our economy back but also to making sure our democracy thrives in the 21st Century."

The CEO Ambassadors for 21st Century Skills, an ad hoc committee of top business executives who promote work force development in the region hosted the gathering in partnership with Philadelphia Academies Inc.

Philadelphia Academies developed its small high school model in Philadelphia 40 years ago.

Lisa Nutter invited Clinton to address the event based on his longstanding interest in education and workforce development. The former president signed the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 which helped prepare students for their first jobs in high-skill fields.