The Crusader Newspaper Group

Throw doors of opportunity wide open for our youth

By Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-Ill.)

These are dark times in Washington. It’s no secret that President Trump and his team are working overtime to turn back the clock on our rights and divest from our communities.

Robin Kelly
Congresswoman Robin Kelly

If you want to know where the President stands on the welfare of the African American community, look no further than his immoral budget. It eliminates programs that feed hungry kids, support veterans and help families buy their own home.

Republicans are slamming the doors of opportunity for our youth. For people of color, those doors appear to be barricaded, chained and padlocked.

We must resist. We must reverse their damage and prevent them from doing it again. Let’s push forward and throw wide the doors of opportunity for all.

President Barack Obama led our recovery from the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Together, we saved our economy and created more than 14 million jobs, more than ten times the number created under the previous President George W. Bush.

But today, we are seeing that jobs are being lost; wages aren’t keeping up and bills are piling up. Tragically, my Republican colleagues’ solution is more tax credits for the super-rich.

My solution is different. It’s called the “Today’s American Dream Act” and will empower families with the security of a good job, a good education, home ownership and access to healthcare.

I introduced this comprehensive, 25-section bill so our young people can live the American Dream by training them for good jobs, creating more good jobs and innovating the future.

Business leaders, especially in the technology and advanced manufacturing sectors, regularly tell me that they have thousands of open jobs, but don’t have the qualified candidates.

For example, Manufacturing Renaissance Chicago reports that there are 15,000 unfilled advanced manufacturing jobs in Chicagoland; these jobs pay an average annual salary of $70,000.

My bill would help people get the training they need for good-paying jobs by investing in apprenticeships, training and re-training programs and expanded student aid for career and technical education.

Additionally, my “Community College to Career Fund Act” would partner businesses with our remarkable community colleges to develop curriculums that turn students into career-ready graduates.

If we used these programs to fill just 10 percent of Chicagoland’s open manufacturing jobs, we’d add $105 million in wages to our communities each and every year.

Filling open jobs with properly trained workers is a strong first step. We also need to create more jobs by investing in small businesses, funding local incubators and rewarding companies for expanding into new markets.

I can tell you that our young people are ready and eager to get to work. In April, I hosted my fourth annual Youth Jobs Fair. More than 300 young people came, resume in hand, looking for a job. Let’s create jobs for them so they build the American Dream for themselves and their families.

We also need to invest in tomorrow, by investing in the science-technology-engineering-mathematic (STEM) fields.

Right now, STEM jobs are driving our economy and continue to grow. According to the Level Playing Field Institute, there will be 1.4 million new tech jobs by 2020 but 70 percent will be unfilled.

Despite the massive need for qualified computer science professionals, just a quarter of all high schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) computer science classes. Many of these schools aren’t in African American communities. In fact, just 13 percent of students who took the AP computer science test were African American or Latino.

It’s time to invest in STEM teachers so our young people—Black, White, Latino, Asian American or Native American—can innovate the future! The “Today’s American Dream Act” would provide aid to STEM teachers who are dedicated to educating the next generation of Mark Zuckerbergs.

Taken together, the “Today’s American Dream Act” will train our young people for the opportunities of today and prepare them for the possibilities of tomorrow. It’s time to pass the “Today’s American Dream Act” and throw wide the doors of opportunity.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly represents Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District. She is the former chief of staff to the Illinois State Treasurer. Follow Rep. Kelly on Twitter @RepRobinKelly.

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