The City Colleges of Chicago are headed for a makeover, and the Near West Side’s Malcolm X College is ground zero.

In a speech last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a shift in the way the city colleges prepares students for specific careers: bolstering each school’s programs in a specific field.

As one of the first two city colleges to change its curriculum, Malcolm X, at 1900 W. Van Buren St., will have a stronger emphasis on health care sciences. With its proximity to the Illinois Medical District, the school will partner with Rush University Medical Center and Cook County’s Stroger Hospital, as well as Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Advocate Healthcare, Baxter, Walgreens and Allscripts.

“Tonight, we charge our community colleges with a new mission: to train the workforce of today for the jobs of tomorrow; to give our students the ability to achieve a middle class standard of living; to provide our companies with the skilled workers they need,” Emanuel said in a speech to business leaders at the Economic Club of Chicago on Dec. 12.

“This is about ensuring that the curriculum taught at community colleges provides the skills you need at your place of employment,” he said. “By making a diploma from our community colleges into a ticket to the workforce, we will make them a first option for job training and not a last resort.”

Malcolm X has long had programs in nursing, but the new plan will make health care the school’s main focus for its occupation-focused education program. According to the mayor’s office, the new program will use Malcolm X’s new partners to help design the curriculum and deliver it, as well as providing students with access to internships, interviews and facilities.

Dr. Larry Goodman, Rush’s CEO, said the partnership will be great for them as well. By partnering with the school, they gain a stronger connection with students who could eventually work for them.

“The win for us is that if we see those students in action during their training, they might prefer us and we might prefer them,” Goodman said. “We have people being hired all the time, and this is one of those fields that at least in the near-term future, there ought to be jobs.”

While Rush is an educational institution in its own right, Goodman said the two won’t be competitors. Rush’s focus is more on doctors and other advanced degrees in medicine, while Malcolm X will focus more on technicians and workers who make the gears turn at hospitals.

“I think it’s more different than competitive,” Goodman said. “They’re not training doctors. … There are many, many other careers in health sciences. We benefit because we have our own school, but we don’t train every single person.”

Goodman has worked with the city on developing educational programs in the past, serving on the board of directors for the Chicago Workforce Investment Council, a body of local business leaders first put together by Mayor Daley to coordinate local educational with industrial needs.

The city also gave Rush $75 million in tax increment financing cash for its new hospital building in 2008, money siphoned off from property taxes for economic development. Goodman said Rush would have been glad to help out with Malcolm X regardless of the money, though.

“We would have been committed anyway, but there’s no question that we are incredibly grateful for the support,” Goodman said. “I’m personally grateful for the support and would absolutely do anything I possibly could do to support these kind of efforts.”

Kevin Scanlan, president and CEO of the Chicago Metropolitan Healthcare Council, said Malcolm X’s new program will be key to supplying the city’s many hospitals with workers.

“The city colleges are a key source for the training need for these jobs in Chicago. Our workforce is aging, technology is changing every day, and we need a steady supply of highly trained personnel and new employees to meet the needs of hospitals,” Scanlan said in a statement released by Emanuel’s office. “Ours is a local industry; it can’t be outsourced out of state or overseas.”

This story has been corrected from an earlier version that appeared online and in print to reflect that Malcolm X will not become a trade school, but is bolstering its health care curriculum to take advantage of nearby medical institutions. Austin Weekly News regrets the error.