Community College Plan in Chicago Stresses Job Skills

Community colleges will work closely with companies to prepare students for the workforce.

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It's not likely young students will be tracked into narrow job training, he adds. Career tech programs attract few 18-year-olds. Recent high school graduates, told to aim for a bachelor's degree, "flock to general education and transfer classes, and many get lost there."

The three-year graduation rate for full-time, first time students at Chicago's seven city colleges is 7 percent, according to federal data.

People with work experience are the ones who seek industry-linked training, the CCRC's Jenkins says. The challenge for Chicago is ensuring that graduates really have the high-level skills and ability to keep learning that employers demand. "Large employers have very high standards for who they'll hire."

Joanne Jacobs writes Community College Spotlight for The Hechinger Report, an independent nonprofit education news site. Jacobs also blogs about K-12 education and is the author of Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds.