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Preckwinkle unveils ‘dual generational’ job training program

Rahm Emanuel and Toni Preckwinkle

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks an event in Douglas Park in 2012. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is at left. Both spoke about efforts to reduce violence and restore communities in Chicago. | Sun-Times files

Parents would get job training at the schools where their kids are learning under a plan unveiled by Toni Preckwinkle Thursday that also targets 60,000 young people neither in school nor working.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel points with pride to having expanded the “One Summer Chicago” jobs program to 32,223 opportunities at a time when state and federal funding for those programs has dried up.

Emanuel is also using a $10.4 million settlement triggered by inadequate driver background checks by ride-hailing giants Uber, Lyft and Via to bolster mentoring programs for at-risk youth and spending $2.6 million to expand and sustain mentoring programs like Becoming a Man (BAM) with “demonstrable success in violence reduction.”

None of that is enough to satisfy Preckwinkle.

If elected mayor, she plans to use the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership she created as county board president to create new job training programs that better meet the needs of working parents, older employees, at-risk youth and ex-offenders.

One of the new wrinkles is what Preckwinkle’s policy volunteer Jay Lee calls a “dual generational training opportunity” that would allow “under-employed parents to train at the same schools their kids attend.”

The expiring contract with the Chicago Teachers Union earmarked $10 million to create a so-called “sustainable community schools program.”

It brings “community partners” into 20 pilot schools to provide additional services, such as literacy and language training. Every participating school gets a $500,000 grant.

Preckwinkle wants to ramp up that program to include 55 schools and add workforce agencies to the pool of organizations brought in to help provide “job training and soft skills.”

Lee pointed to a recent study by Northwestern University showing that when parents and children get “dual-generation training” at the same location, both generations benefit.

“Sometimes, these job training programs are far from where kids go to school. It becomes difficult for the parents to manage both,” Lee said.

“By creating opportunities for parents to train in the same place where their kids are going to school, you eliminate the child care burden. Kids do better knowing their parents are nearby. And parents do better knowing they don’t have to worry about their kids.”

Chicago has nearly 60,000 young people ages 16 to 24 who are not in school and don’t have jobs. Most live on the South and West Sides. They are in danger of becoming either victims of crime or criminals themselves.

To prevent those young people from succumbing to the lure of street gangs, Preckwinkle wants to modify the city’s summer jobs program to put a laser-like focus on detached youth.

Instead of just giving a kid a summer job and telling them to show up at a desk or a park, Preckwinkle wants to duplicate the “intensive,” $1 million program she used at the county to create a 90 percent job placement rate for 400 young people most at risk.

“Counselors are doing individual development and checking up on the family situation and things outside the program. Almost social work stuff. They’re finding emotional trauma resources and making sure they’re getting to work. They’re being more intentional on the employer side by finding high-growth industries and doing a match,” Lee said.

“There’s a critical need to start using the summer to get some of these kids into permanent careers with … a future. Going back to high school is great. But we know there’s a population that’s not doing that. We need to use the summer to help those kids get sustainable careers.”

Like former Mayor Richard M. Daley, Emanuel has made it a priority to find jobs for roughly 3,000 ex-offenders who return to Chicago each year.

But Preckwinkle argued that the city’s “disorganized cluster” of ex-offender programs “makes it near impossible” for former inmates to get the help they need to ease the transition home.

She’s promising to coordinate all re-entry programs through a task force under the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

She also plans to expand the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership’s Back to Work 50+ program with AARP to every one of Chicago’s seven city colleges.