pexels christina morillo 1181622CHICAGO – Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) joined the Senate Education and Higher Education Committees for a hearing focused on efforts to prepare Illinois youth to enter the workforce, including career and technical education (CTE) program, the Illinois Pathways program and the Illinois Postsecondary Workforce Readiness Act.

“With few or no work experience programs available in their communities, students can’t build the job readiness skills they’ll need to excel in the workforce after graduation,” Lightford said. “CTE programs are an essential part of preparing students for high-demand, skilled careers.”

During the hearing, Senate and House lawmakers heard testimony from the Illinois Community College Board, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Illinois State Board of Education, Teach for America and Relay Graduate School of Education, Alternative Schools Network, YouthBuild Illinois, Empower Illinois/Untapped Potential Project, and Chicago Jobs Council.

“We’ve sought more information on the inequities and barriers that are keeping our most vulnerable children from success,” Lightford said. “We’ve learned there are challenges at every level of the education system that need to be addressed.”

Witnesses gave an overview of the Illinois Pathways program, the Illinois Postsecondary Workforce Readiness Act and the PERKINS plan, and discussed ways to implement CTE clubs and internships for students. Some speakers also offered recommendations to expand and strengthen programs that provide jobless youth and dropouts the opportunity to learn through meaningful work experience.

Wednesday’s hearing was the eighth and final hearing dedicated to education and workforce development, the second pillar of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ agenda to rid Illinois of systemic racism.

“We have a long way to go before we can say that our state’s education system is built to empower every child’s growth,” Lightford said. “I’m committed to working with my colleagues to reach that goal.”