PEORIA, Ill.—A 15-strong delegation of Puerto Rico mayors, labor unions and industry leaders will meet today to discuss a plan to help high school students hurt by Hurricane Maria secure internships to boost the island’s workforce and revitalize its economy—using Peoria as a model.
The coalition hopes to deploy Peoria’s successful Pathways to Prosperity program as a template to create several hundred internships at leading Puerto Rico businesses by 2022. Puerto Rico is striving to rebuild its workforce and grow the economy after years of economic austerity that coincided with the September 2017 disaster, which destroyed tens of thousands of homes, schools and businesses and left millions without power.
Mayors from four Puerto Rico provinces hit hard by the hurricane will learn how to better connect the education system with industry, joining AFT President Randi Weingarten, Popular Inc. Executive Chairman Richard Carrion, Peoria Federation of Teachers President Jeff Adkins-Dutro, Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico President Aida Diaz, Illinois Federation of Teachers Secretary-Treasurer Jane Russell, and representatives from the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, Peoria Public Schools, Illinois Central College, Caterpillar and UnityPoint Health.
Since 2015, three affiliated unions—the AFT, the IFT and the PFT—have invested close to $300,000 in the Peoria program, which, among other things, has enabled 230 Peoria students to work in paid internships at more than 50 local employers. The initiative has been lauded by the Peoria community and achieved official recognition from the state of Illinois.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “Pathways to Prosperity has played so well in Peoria—now it’s time to take it on the road, and our first stop is Puerto Rico where this work is so necessary. This delegation is about unions, business and government coming together to forge new career pathways for Puerto Rico’s students—just as we’ve successfully done in Peoria for years. It’s about AMPR and AFT helping cities and communities build connective tissue and solve the problems of workforce development and underinvestment that are still so prevalent almost 18 months after Maria. Through this partnership, we are demonstrating in real terms how public schools, unions and businesses can aspire to reverse the economic austerity that has bankrupted the island and continue, together, the process of renewal and revitalization.”
Richard Carrion, managing partner, Apex Capital Partners LLC, and Caroline McConnie, executive vice president, RIMCO LLC, said: “The students and young workers of Puerto Rico deserve a real shot at achieving their dreams—and one of the best ways to achieve that is to strengthen partnerships between education and industry. We are excited and proud to support the Puerto Rico delegation in its bid to create an internship program modeled on the success we’ve seen in Peoria, where a deliberate focus on career education has shaped so many lives for the better.”
Chris Setti, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council said: “It’s incredible to look back and see what we’ve accomplished in the last three years with the support of the AFT Innovation Fund. This work began with a core partnership led by the Peoria Federation of Teachers, Peoria Public Schools and the City of Peoria, but it’s grown to be a regional discussion with the incredible support of Illinois Central College. We’re now talking across school districts, between institutions, and have established a shared language between industry and education with an intentional focus on talent development that didn’t exist three years ago. It’s been a privilege to work with industry leaders like Caterpillar and UnityPoint Health-Peoria to create, sustain and scale high-school internship models here in the region. I'm thrilled to share it with our colleagues in Puerto Rico and support their local efforts however we can.”
AMPR President Aida Diaz said: “Enabling new ways to support our students and helping them to obtain a practical education that prepares them for the workforce, while promoting our economic development, requires both goodwill and an understanding of the dynamics of the educational process and of the enormous potential of our people. We value and appreciate the opportunity that the AFT has given us to witness firsthand the results of the partnership among companies, municipalities, teachers and communities in Peoria as well as the process behind it.
“Teachers are experts in the educational process, and companies have the necessary resources for our students to put into practice what they have learned. If in Puerto Rico we can unite both sectors with the support of mayors and communities, the economy will grow for our benefit. AMPR has the standing and the experience to launch these types of projects, and that is our goal for the benefit of our students, their parents, our communities and the island.”
IFT President Daniel Montgomery said: “As teachers, we care about our students from the moment they walk into our classrooms and want to do everything we can to set them up for success before they leave. Whether it’s in Peoria or Puerto Rico, our students face adversity, but we can help create a pathway to prosperity when we all work together to build opportunities for them to succeed. The IFT has been proud to support this program to forge meaningful community relationships and hope it serves to support our colleagues from Puerto Rico as they continue to rebuild.”
PFT President Jeff Adkins-Dutro said: “Support from the AFT has propelled our work from concept to proof. We’re proud of the impact Pathways has had for students of all backgrounds. As educators, it’s our primary focus. As unionists, we continually strive to spearhead and support work that will transform communities. It’s a source of great pride to be able to look around and say we built Pathways together alongside so many partners in the region.”
For more information on Peoria Pathways, please contact Brent Baker, Peoria Pathways to Prosperity, at 309-696-4733 or email@example.com, or Andrew Crook, American Federation of Teachers, at 607-280-6603 or firstname.lastname@example.org.