Emanuel announces higher ed. plan with job focus

December 12, 2011 (CHICAGO)

He says city colleges are failing many students by not providing proper training, so some companies are being asked to help write the curriculum.

The goal is to keep businesses in the city and keep Chicago's workforce competitive.

"We have a 10 percent unemployment [rate] and over 100,000 job openings. Now do those two go together?" said Emanuel.

Just 8 percent of students who enroll in the City Colleges of Chicago earn a diploma. Monday night, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he not only hopes to raise that number but also expand students' job prospects.

Raven Johnson says she has little confidence that she will be able to land a job working in a pharmacy after she completes her coursework at Harold Washington College. And she wonders why?

"When [others] finish their classes they know what to go into. It's not like that here... too basic," said Johnson. "You need more when you leave here."

Monday night, Emanuel unveiled his plan for transforming the City's seven community colleges at a meeting of the Economic Club.

"There should be economic value associated with that diploma," Emanuel says.

He will start at Malcolm X College on the near West Side with a focus on the health care industry.

"That same student will now go to Malcolm X and that curriculum and that degree will give them the ability to go to a Walgreens, go to a CVS, because those very companies will be developing the curriculum and training," said Emanuel.

Training for transportation-related jobs, including welding to update aging infrastructure, will take place at Olive-Harvey College on the far South Side.

City Colleges Chancellor Cheryl Hyman says that, for years, schools did not track job placement and companies frequently did not see value in their degrees.

"Northwestern, Baxter, UPS - they should see that and they should say, I know they got the training I want," said Hyman. "That's not happening now. It is a reality, it's not happening, and if we don't make it happen, it is unfair to the students."

The mayor's plan is to have companies help recreate the curriculum in those specialty areas at Malcolm X and Olive-Harvey in the next year or so, and then expand to other schools later.

123,000 students are enrolled in the city colleges - more than graduate from all the big universities in town combined.

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