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Chicago Tribune: For More Chicago Jobs, Fix Chicago's Schools

3/27/2014 12:00 AM

​In our series on a new Plan of Chicago, we've focused on how Chicago can spread the prosperity of wealthier precincts of the Loop and Near North Side to all neighborhoods. How city and state leaders can help create jobs and incubate new businesses throughout the city, to guarantee Chicago's — and Illinois' — prosperous future for generations to come.

On Tuesday night at a Tribune-sponsored Chicago Forward event, three leaders with disparate points of view talked up politics, union work rules, economic cycles and bureaucracy in explaining what is going right and wrong in Chicago. But to the basic question — how to attract the best jobs to Chicago — they all focused on one factor: education. ... 

One initiative we enthusiastically support was touted by Paula Wolff, chair of the City Colleges of Chicago. That's her system's innovative long-term plan to retool each of the colleges' seven campuses to focus on a specific job sector. College officials collaborate with local employers so students are ready for careers when they graduate. Executives from area companies help shape curricula so students gain skills that can lead directly to jobs. So far, City Colleges has retooled six campuses; the plan for the seventh, Truman College, is to be announced in coming months. 

Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez, one of the most impressive union leaders in the city, applauded City Colleges' focus on skills training. He said graduates could help fill a "pipeline" of workers who will be needed as older workers retire. "A lot of jobs that left Chicago were lower-skilled manufacturing jobs, the type of 'set-it-and-forget-it' manufacturing that you can do almost anywhere around the world," he said. "... The type of manufacturing still here is a much more higher-skilled, constantly retooling, something that you need to have a much more skilled and trainable workforce." 

We agree with Ramirez that this offers a "tremendous opportunity" for Chicago. ... 

Read the entire Chicago Tribune editorial at chicagotribune.com. 

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