Delegates from the World Bank were in Chicago on Tuesday for the first of a two-day exploration of the partnership between the City Colleges of Chicago and leaders in high-growth industries.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel launched the Colleges to Careers program in 2011 as an effort to ensure students received the skills they need to get a job and businesses would have a stable, properly trained labor market.
The World Bank delegates are hoping to learn whether the the initiative could be duplicated around the world.
Emanuel on Tuesday said that at any given time, there are more than 100,000 job openings in the city of Chicago. Yet a recent report put the city's unemployment at 9.5 percent.
"How could you have job openings with that high of unemployment," the mayor said. "You can't have that many job openings with those many people looking for work. I thought that the community college could link job openings with the unemployed and put them together by making sure they have the skills."
He called the visit by more than a dozen economists and education specialists a sign of the program's success.
"Years ago, Chicago was known as having one of the worst community college systems. Now the World Bank is visiting," Emanuel said. "That's a big change."
More than 100 corporations and organizations have partnered with the City Colleges of Chicago on the initiative. The companies help design curriculum and students get access to industry experts as well as to internships and jobs.
Six colleges are participating, each with a focus on a different high-growth industry. They are: health care; business; information technology; culinary and hospitality; transportation, distribution and logistics and advanced manufacturing.
Companies that are part of the program include United Airlines, Allstate and Advocate Healthcare Systems.
The World Bank is an international organization that helps its partner countries with economic development.
The group is expected to be in Chicago Tuesday and Wednesday. Officials will visit training sites and learn about the experiences of employers and students.
"This will be a unique opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience for the purpose of generating innovative solutions to this important global challenge," said Elizabeth King, education director for the World Bank.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.