Jill Biden Visits Chicago and Calls Education a Bipartisan ‘American’ Issue – Chicago Sun-Times | Team Cansler

First Lady Jill Biden met with Chicago-area students, teachers and business leaders Monday to open National Apprenticeship Week and highlighted education as a non-partisan “American issue.”

“Education is always related to jobs. And it’s not a red or blue problem. It’s an American problem,” Biden told a packed audience of more than 200 people 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 Trade Secretary Gina Raimondo. They spent the day highlighting educational opportunities at the high school and community college levels.

The First Lady urged Chicago employers to create “inclusive career opportunities” for students from diverse backgrounds. She touted the Biden administration’s commitment to “work-based 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, higher-performing 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 national network of more than 200 employers and organizations dedicated to hiring a diverse workforce. The founding group includes the co-founders of the Chicago Apprentice Network Aon, Zurich North America and Accenture.

Aon apprentice Terionna Wilson introduced the first lady at Monday’s event. A native of Chicago, he is pursuing a business degree from Harold Washington College and hopes to work in the insurance industry. She said Biden was “definitely a hugger,” which helped settle her nerves.

“Today was pretty amazing. Just being able to shake her hand and talk to her made me feel really great,” she said.

first lady dr Jill Biden speaks about the importance of creating new jobs for the next generation and kicking off Apprentice Week at the Aon Center in the Loop on Monday, November 14, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun Times

Wilson’s older sister, Teonna, got a full-time job at Aon about two years ago after completing an apprenticeship. She said this 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 provide for my family and those in need.”

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

She also spoke about the importance of creating practical employment opportunities as early as high school.

“As a community college professor, I see how badly we need this and how kids can start early,” Biden said during a panel discussion. “Not everyone needs a four-year degree. It’s all about jobs.”

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

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

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

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

Foley said she was personally motivated after seeing her mother battle with breast cancer. She wants to continue her education and study biomedical engineering so she can help other people avoid what her mother went through.

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

Nereida Moreno covers the training for WBEZ.

Leave a Comment