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Jill Biden checks out Chicago’s college-to-career program

 Dr. Jill Biden center with (from left) Coyote Logistics CEO Jeff Silver Coyote employee Bilal Mahasneh City Colleges Chicago

Dr. Jill Biden, center, with (from left) Coyote Logistics CEO Jeff Silver, Coyote employee Bilal Mahasneh and City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl L. Hyman at the company's Diversey Ave. headquarters to highlight Chicago’s College to Careers Initiative. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 21, 2012 6:30AM

In 2008, like 2.6 million others in the U.S., Michele Miller found herself out of a job.

Determined to get back on track, the 41-year-old health care worker enrolled full-time in community college classes. After working closely with City Colleges of Chicago staff to practice mock interviews, participate in resume workshops and attend job information sessions, Miller landed a job with Chicago-based Allscripts Heathcare Solutions Inc.

The recent graduate of Harold Washington College was one of two City Colleges of Chicago graduates to tell their stories Tuesday to Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden. Jill Biden has been touring college-to-career programs across the country since February. Biden herself has been a community college teacher for 18 years.

“It was completely magical,” Miller said about the experience. “What came out of it, Dr. Biden, wasn’t just a job, but a career.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and City Colleges launched the city’s College to Careers program in December 2011 in an effort to better prepare students for jobs and address the skills gap in Chicago.

The program currently partners two of City Colleges’ seven schools with local businesses and organizations that help train students to work in specialized fields.

Malcolm X College partners with health care organizations while Olive-Harvey College partners with transportation, distribution and logistics companies.

While not yet formerly announced, the city has plans to partner Harold Washington College with companies that will prepare students to work in business, said City Colleges of Chicago spokesperson Nikole Muzzy.

Coyote Logistics, located inside the Green Exchange on West Diversey, hosted Biden for a roundtable discussion among eight other professionals who have taken a part in the college to careers program. The discussion included Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, CEO of Coyote Logistics Jeff Silver and Daley College graduate Daniel Andujar, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who was recently hired at Woodridge-based International Titanium Powder.

Biden said that she, along with her husband and President Barack Obama, have “worked to shine a light on community colleges.”

In February, Obama announced an $8 billion Community College to Careers fund for similar programs across the country. The fund is co-administered by the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, and it endeavors to partner students at community colleges with industries in need of skilled workers.

Emanuel and Hyman pledged $479 million over a five-year period to the College to Careers program in February. Some of that money will go toward building new facilities for both Malcolm X and Olive-Harvey.

Hyman said in the roundtable discussion that while the Chicago area has a nearly 10 percent unemployment rate, there are also almost 100,000 unfilled jobs because of a lack of highly skilled workers.

“There’s a serious skills shortage, but there’s also a huge information shortage, because many people don’t know that there’s that many jobs out there,” Hyman said.

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