Remarks by the First Lady at an Event Highlighting Career-Connected Learning and Apprenticeships in Chicago, Illinois

November 14, 2022

[As prepared for delivery.]

Thank you, Terionna, for sharing your and your sisters' story with us. Your hard work and dedication are inspiring and I know that this is just the beginning of the amazing things you will do.

And thank you to Greg Case and Aon for hosting us and to all the business leaders with us today—your presence speaks to your commitment.

Mayor Lightfoot and Congressman Krishnamoorthi, as you know Chicago is a place of innovation. So it's great to be back to talk about jobs once again.

Career-connected learning—programs that bridge the gap between what students learn and the careers they will eventually find—is not a new idea.

What is new is that President Biden's entire Administration is committed to making it a reality for all students, through unprecedented collaboration and historic investments. Joe knows that this pipeline of support from high school, to community college, to career is the future of our workforce. And that's why we're here today.

You know, President Biden has talked a lot about building our economy "from the bottom up and the middle out." Building a strong middle class is not a slogan to my husband. It's personal.

When he was growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Joe's dad had to sit him down and say the words no one wants to say to their child:

"I'm sorry. I can't find work and we can't live here anymore."

He thinks about that moment to this day: The guilt that his father must have felt when they had to uproot their lives. The humiliation of admitting to his children that no matter how hard he tried, it just wasn't enough. And the resilience and strength that Joe learned watching his father put his shoulders back and rebuild their lives in a new city.

His dad used to say: "A job is more than a paycheck."

And when Joe hired his Cabinet, he looked for people who understood that too.

So when he sits down with Secretary Walsh to talk about unemployment numbers; when he talks to Secretary Cardona about the cost of college, or Secretary Raimondo about growing businesses—that's the voice he hears: "A job is more than a paycheck."

The details of the programs our Secretaries will talk about today aren't just statistics or numbers to Joe.

They're the little boy who goes to bed worrying about his favorite baseball team—not wondering if his parents will be able to find work.

They're the young woman who gets her first direct deposit and is able to take a deep breath for the first time in what feels like months.

They're the dad who finally gets to say "OK" with a smile when his daughter asks for new shoes for school.

And they're the ripple effect that begins when one student falls in love with computers, because a high school like Rolling Meadows gives her the chance to explore her passions.

When that experience helps her realize that engineering is the perfect fit.

When she can come to one of the City Colleges of Chicago and learn how to apply her passion to business—and find an incredible job at one of your companies.

That's the pipeline we're talking about today.

Suddenly, her family has what it needs to climb into the middle class.

And your businesses have the skilled, innovative workers they need to thrive.

Education has always been about jobs. And it isn't a red issue or a blue issue. It's an American issue.

Again and again, I've had the chance to work with Republican leaders on this. We have an opportunity to make some real, bipartisan progress, building pathways that work for all students.

And everyone has a role to play.

That's especially true for all of you—some of the most influential employers in Chicago and our country.

So get involved. Create apprenticeships. Work with the high schools and community colleges in your area. Mentor students.

Not because it will change lives—though it can.

Not because it will help your communities—though it will.

But because when students here have the training they need to succeed—your businesses will benefit.

We can only realize the full power of our workforce when we tap into its full potential. That means all students—all Americans.

With your help, we can build a stronger, more powerful economy for everyone—from the bottom up and the middle out.

Thank you.

Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady at an Event Highlighting Career-Connected Learning and Apprenticeships in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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