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Secretary Cardona’s Remarks on Career Pathways and Success

Good afternoon. Isn’t it great to hear the First Lady of the United States? Thank you, Dr. Biden, and thank you to Aon, and Greg Case, for welcoming us here today.

During Dr. Biden’s remarks, you heard what we in Washington hear from her and President Biden all the time: an unwavering belief in the importance of education . . . and a deep, personal commitment to supporting our young people and our working families. She walks the walk…. She teaches tomorrow and she sees firsthand the needs of her students and our country.

And I’m thrilled to be here with two of my fellow Cabinet secretaries, colleagues, and friends – Secretary Walsh and Secretary Raimondo, the very best leaders and collaborators I could have asked to work with—and I’m not just saying that because we are all from New England. I’m not.

It’s an honor to be here at Aon during National Apprenticeship Week – and I know Secretary Walsh will have more to say about that in a few minutes!

To Aon, the Chicago Apprentice Network, and your partner community colleges, you’re showing the country the incredible power of apprenticeship and what it means for young people across this country to have new pathways to success – in everything from manufacturing and teaching to banking and insurance.

This is what I want to focus on today: the endless potential that every child, every student, every person has.

One thing you learn as an educator, and I know Dr. B can attest to this, is that every student has a superpower.

You can see it in that child who has an ear for music. That’s their superpower.

O alguien que también habla otro idioma, that’s a superpower.

You can see it in a student who’s great at building things – out of wood, or clay, or metal. That’s their superpower.

You can see that in a young person who has a knack for numbers and data. That’s a superpower.

And you can see it right here at Aon . . . and I saw it earlier today, when I visited Rolling Meadows High School.

While every person has unlimited potential, we have a system that’s not yet transformed to realize its potential.

Today in this country, we have an education system fundamentally designed around one narrow pathway to a bachelor’s degree – no matter who you are or what you’re interested in. Sadly, in many places, it’s 4-year college or bust mentality. And we’ve designed our schools with very little expertise on career and workforce pathways or course design.

For too long, we have normalized the question that so many of our high school students ask us and we don’t have a strong answer to, “Why am I learning this?”

That’s a big problem when 70% of jobs by 2027 will require some type of postsecondary credential, and when jobs of today and tomorrow will require specific skills or they will be left vacant.

And it’s a big problem when women and girls, people of color, and others remain underrepresented in some of the most dynamic areas of our economy.

That’s why our work to transform our schools is crucial. Our schools must evolve quicker to meet the demands of the workforce today. Doing what we’ve done in the past won’t keep up with the pace of our country to create new high skilled jobs and compete internationally.

With today’s visit, we’re tearing down those silos between our K-12 systems and our college, career, and industry preparation programs – just like we saw at Rolling Meadows High School and just like you’re doing here at Aon. We are tearing down silos between the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce to ensure that if we can collaborate well at the Federal level, we will support and expect that it happens where it matters, in communities like Chicago.

So that students like Kate, a sophomore at Rolling Meadows High School, can get college credit in high school to study biomedical engineering after being inspired by her mother who is a three-time cancer survivor, or Ethan, who is pursuing credits in the program that focuses on improving efficiencies of High Mileage Vehicles.

So, when they ask, “why am I learning this?” We have a great answer!

There has never been a better time to reimagine our education system – to normalize the sort of pathways and collaboration we saw today at Rolling Meadows—where students not only learn skills, but also about themselves and their purpose.

Look, Dr. B, Gina, Marty and I are here to tell you: there has never been a better time for employers to partner with our community college system and to create registered apprenticeship programs just like you’re doing here.

Between CHIPS and Science Act, the Infrastructure Plan, and the Climate friendly path our country is taking, our schools must be the incubators for the professions of today and tomorrow. I want to point here to show the country how it can be done.

That’s why, today, I am proud to launch a new pathways initiative we’re calling Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success. It’s a joint effort across the Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce that reimagines how our nation’s high schools prepare all students to thrive in their future careers. It’s like a GPS for students….

Through this initiative, students will gain hands-on experiences in emerging innovative industries that our nation needs to build and lead our future—in areas such as biotechnology, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, and more.

The President’s budget asks for $200 million for career connected learning. It’s about providing students with accelerated and innovative opportunities to earn college credits and gain real-world career exposure and experiences.

It’s about helping our students find their passion and purpose in life.

And it’s about our students earning postsecondary and industry credentials.

And ultimately, by growing these multiple pathways to success, we are fulfilling the promise of education – see, education is a bridge for people to create the lives that they want.

We are helping our young people reach their endless potential.

And we are raising the bar for our education system – and our country.

Thank you – and now, it gives me great pleasure to introduce my colleague and friend, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

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