Dr. Jill Biden, a lifelong educator and soon-to-be first lady, spoke to college students via video conference on Monday, offering advice on how to adapt to a changing workforce amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Biden delivered the opening address at the College Promise Careers Institute, a conference where the “nation's leading practitioners, educators, employers, and thought leaders (...) tackle the most complex challenges American workers face — from the rise of artificial intelligence to the role free college plays in maintaining a competitive edge.”
Biden thanked those who supported her husband, Joe Biden, during his bid for president, promising to be an ally to educators in the White House.
“You aren’t alone, and neither are the millions of students just like you, who want nothing more than to work hard and make a good life for themselves,” Dr. Biden began. “I'm grateful and excited, and most of all, I'm ready to get to work with you.”
Biden went on to tout the work of the College Promise Campaign, which she helped launch nearly five years ago with a simple goal in mind: “Every hardworking student should have the chance to go to community college tuition free.”
According to the Biden Foundation website, the College Promise Campaign is "a non-partisan initiative that builds public support for funding the first two years of hardworking students’ educations — starting in America’s community colleges." Dr. Biden serves as the honorary chair of the organization's national advisory board.
It’s a goal that Biden pledged to further during her time as first lady, noting that Americans without college degrees have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.
A recent study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that both before and during the pandemic, adults with a college degree are significantly more likely to be employed than those who receive less education.
“Community colleges change lives, they are flexible and they meet students where they are,” Biden said, adding: “This isn't a Democrat issue or a Republican issue. It’s an American issue.”
The future first lady promised to work with Washington lawmakers and business leaders to ensure that Americans have access to affordable community college, and clear pathways to success after they graduate.
“This is about jobs. Community colleges fuel our industries and we need an educated, skilled, trained workforce to lead the world in a 21st Century economy,” she said.
Dr. Biden has long been passionate about creating post-college pathways for students to find jobs. During her tenure as second lady, Dr. Biden hosted the “Community College to Career” bus tour, a trip that promoted local industry initiatives helping train students for specific workforce needs.
During her eight years as second lady, Dr. Biden worked full time as an English professor at a community college in Northern Virginia. Come January, Biden will likely make history when she becomes the first first lady to hold a paid job outside of the White House, as she has long maintained that she will continue to teach once her husband assumes the presidency.
Dr. Biden is expected to address the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers on Monday evening, and will be joined by the presidents of both organizations, Becky Pringle and Randi Weingarten, respectively.