WASHINGTON—Addressing mayors from across the country, Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel on Friday touted his plan to transform the City Colleges of Chicago by tailoring the curriculum at individual campuses to meet employers’ needs for workers in fields such as health care, computer science, transportation, hospitality and manufacturing.
Emanuel said Chicago has several noted colleges and post-graduate schools — he named several, including the University of Chicago and Northwestern — and said that he also wants a degree from schools such as Malcolm X College also to “have economic value” and impress prospective employers.
Emanuel said City Colleges now have a 7 percent graduation rate and employment opportunities for its graduates were “not as high.”
Under his program, six of the seven City Colleges locations would have a separate specialty and employers would be brought in to tailor the curriculum and training. He said he would start with Malcolm X, making health care its focus and bringing in employers including Abbott Laboratories, Allscripts, Walgreens, Rush University Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital to develop the curriculum and run the program.
He said Malcolm X would feature training in fields including nursing, health-care information technology, pharmacy science and home-health care.
He said Olive-Harvey College would specialize in transportation, distribution and logistics training, with input from employers such as United Parcel Service, FedEx, Canadian National Railway, Coyote Logistics and United Airlines.
Emanuel lamented that even as the country recovers from recession, there are employers looking for skilled people to hire and jobless people seeking work. Three-quarters of the jobs of the future will require at least two years of post-secondary education, Emanuel said.
He said he had studied the example of Louisville, Ky., Austin, Texas, and the state of Tennessee in coming up with a “knowledge-to-careers” program to transform community colleges to meet the needs of employers.
While he oversees City Colleges, other mayors do not, and he urged the latter group to talk to their state’s governors for the power to launch programs similar to his, if only at one or two schools.
Talking about Chicago, Emanuel said the CEOs of companies large, medium and small were so enthusiastic about the program that he has trouble absorbing “all the enthusiasm.”
He said at the end of four years, six of City College seven campuses would see their curricula revised and tailored for specific growth fields.
Before his 15-minute speech, Emanuel was introduced by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, president of theU.S. Conference of Mayors.
Organizers said 250 mayors were registered for the conference, which began Tuesday and ends today.
Villaraigosa said “we all know and love Richie Daley…but Rahm is a tour de force. He’s one of those people that works 24/7. He’s got an idea and he runs with it.”
Emanuel arrived late Thursday in the capital and was to depart Friday, said Melissa Green, who leads the City of Chicago office in Washington.
In a hallway interview, Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s first chief of staff, would not touch on presidential politics, refusing to make a prediction on Saturday’s South Carolina presidential primary.
Nor would he divulge whether he would be meeting with Obama officials while in the capital.
“My schedule is my schedule,” he said.
After the speech, Emanuel went to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama and “had a brief and productive conversation” on a host of issues, said Tarah Cooper, an Emanuel spokeswoman.