Jill Biden touts ‘career-related learning’ in Chicago

First Lady Jill Biden met with Chicago-area students, teachers and business leaders on Monday to kick off National Learning Week, stressing that education is a nonpartisan “American issue.”

“Education has always been about employment. And it’s not a red problem or a blue problem. This is an American problem,” Biden told a packed audience of more than 200 at the Loop office of Aon, the global professional services firm. “And everyone has a role to play.”

Biden was joined by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. They spent the day highlighting learning opportunities at the high school and community college level.

The first lady urged Chicago employers to create “inclusive career opportunities” for students from all walks of life. She touted the Biden administration’s commitment to “career-related learning” programs that bridge the gap between what students learn and the careers they eventually find, calling it “the future.” of our workforce.

“With your help, we can build a stronger, more powerful economy for everyone – bottom up and middle,” she said, speaking directly to business leaders and government officials. at Aon, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Earlier this year, the US Department of Labor announced its Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiative, a nationwide network of more than 200 employers and organizations who are committed to hiring a diverse workforce. The inaugural group includes the co-founders of the Chicago Apprentice Network, Aon, Zurich North America and Accenture.

Aon’s apprentice Terionna Wilson introduced the first lady at Monday’s event. The Chicago native is studying business at Harold Washington College and hopes to work in the insurance industry. She said Biden is “definitely a hugger,” which helped calm her nerves.

“Today was pretty amazing. Just being able to shake his hand and be able to talk to him made me feel really good,” she said.

Wilson’s older sister, Teonna, landed a full-time job with Aon after completing an apprenticeship about two years ago. She said it inspired her to pursue bigger goals and hopes the rest of her siblings will follow suit.

“I learned that I wanted something more for myself,” Wilson said. “My main goal is to be stable, to support my family and people in need.”

Biden was greeted at O’Hare International Airport around noon by Cook County Council Speaker Toni Preckwinkle. She traveled to Rolling Meadows High School in the northwest suburbs to meet students in a career path program.

She also discussed the importance of creating practical job opportunities starting in high school.

“As a community college teacher, I see how much we need it and how kids can start early,” Biden said during a panel discussion. “Not everyone needs a four-year degree. It’s a question of jobs.

During the visit, Secretary Cardona announced a new White House initiative called Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success, which aims to connect students to high-quality training programs.

He said schools across the country should implement work-based learning programs, dual college enrollment and pathways to industry degrees similar to those at Rolling Meadows.

“If we could take what we have here, bottle it, and transport it across the country, we would have a better country,” Cardona said.

Rolling Meadows student Kate Foley said what her teachers exposed her to initially piqued her interest in engineering. She works with metal printers and other machines at school.

Foley said she was personally motivated after watching her mother battle breast cancer. She wants to continue her education and pursue studies in biomedical engineering so that she can help others avoid what her mother went through.

“There has to be a better way,” Foley said.

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