Mayor Rahm Emanuel said city colleges have failed in preparing graduates to enter the workforce.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel said city colleges have failed in preparing graduates to enter the workforce.

In an effort to improve the city’s 10 percent unemployment rate and fill 100,000 job openings that remain unfilled because of a skills gap, the City Colleges of Chicago will be launching an innovative program to ensure residents are equipped for employment in high growth industries.

African-American unemployment in the city is just over 21 percent, according to data from the Department of Labor.

"Making our education system the best it can be is a key focus of my administration. We are asking the business community to help us reach this goal," Emanuel said at a news conference Monday. "This strategy will create good jobs and allow companies to more easily remain or locate here because they will have access to locally trained, competitive workforce."

The innovative program called College to Careers is expected to forge partnerships between the area colleges, corporations and organizational partners to drive job creation in such industries as health care, transportation and logistics.

"We have a city college system that has not been updated and modernized," Emanuel said. "We know in this economy, you need more than a (high school diploma). The city colleges have a role and function in training so graduates can get a job and a career."

A similar program was developed in Miami, Fla. and Louisville, Ky, city officials said.

Beginning next fall, Malcom X College is expected to work with Allied Heath to tailor its curriculum toward health care. Olive Harvey College will train students for transportation jobs in conjunction with aviation corporation AAR.

Wilbur Wright College, Kennedy King College, Richard J. Daley College, Harold Washington College and Truman College will partner with companies in the areas of computer technology, business and hospitality.

Representatives from those industries will work alongside professors in outlining the curriculum, Emanuel said.

"We are creating colleges that will deliver the jobs of today and tomorrow," said City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl Hyman.

Currently, only seven percent of the 123,000 students who enroll in the City Colleges of Chicago earn a degree.

"Why should kids at city colleges be shortchanged?" the mayor asked. "A degree from a city college should have meaning to those employers. "

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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