In Maudlyne Ihejirika’s article titled “Chicago needs urban renewal not tweets” (Feb. 7), she reports that Austin area community leaders urged the president to focus his attention, and a healthy chunk of resources, on poverty eradication and jobs rather than on rhetoric. This group, citing a recent study on violence and poverty in the African-American community from University of Illinois at Chicago researchers, pointed out that the root cause of the violence plaguing communities like Austin is a tragic lack of an educational infrastructure linked to jobs and economic opportunity.

We agree. There needs to be real investment in a robust workforce and jobs development initiative. It is also important that we fill the vacant jobs that already exist as we fight for more. Many people believe high-paying manufacturing jobs have completely disappeared. Not quite true. In fact, there are nearly 15,000 current vacancies in advanced manufacturing jobs in Chicagoland and over 400 in Austin alone. The National Association of Manufacturers projects that in just 10 years there will be 3 million vacancies in the advanced manufacturing segment.

The problem is that the current available training is insufficient to prepare people to get these jobs which pay, on average, $70,000 including benefits. There are only a few hundred people in the education and training pipeline throughout Cook County and it isn’t because the course work or requirements to get into a program are onerous. Pass a ninth-grade math test and be drug free, and in just 20 weeks anyone can have industry recognized certifications allowing them to march into nearly any manufacturing shop and get hired.

We would suggest that the community demand a real investment in this kind of training and education linked to the opportunities in manufacturing. Want to solve inner-city violence, shrink the income inequality gap while preserving the local tax base? Invest in advanced manufacturing training and job placement.

Dan Swinney, executive director, Manufacturing Renaissance, Chicago

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Shame on the U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate was sullied this week by the censure of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She was cut off mid-sentence by the Republican leadership who apparently did not want her comments entered into the record for all posterity to ponder.

The stakes were high. The nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has a checkered past when it comes to enforcing civil rights laws. Coretta Scott King wrote some comments about his nomination to the federal bench in 1986 that are extremely relevant today. These comments were stifled on the Senate floor, but printed in newspapers for the world to see. She stated that as a U.S. attorney he used his office to intimidate black voters and keep them from the polls.

Now he has been elevated to the office of U.S. attorney general, a position that is supposed to enforce equal justice throughout the land. With all of the challenges to voting rights that exist in many states, this high office will be more important that ever in the coming years.

Was that not worth a few more minutes of debate?

 Jan Goldberg, Riverside

The envelope, please

Gov. Bruce Rauner is a one-trick pony when it comes to campaigning. Everything is ‘blame (Illinois House Speaker Michael) Madigan.’ He should refer to the “Three Envelopes” joke.

David Berkey, Elgin