|Pilot workshop series helped students build interest in computing and tech pathways; make connections to Chicago’s tech community
April 27, 2023 (CHICAGO) —The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), part of the University of Illinois System, today celebrated the establishment of a new partnership with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to bring high school computer science students to DPI for enriching field trip workshops. This year, the partnership helped support and encourage nearly 250 CPS students from a dozen CPS schools to explore the tech field.
This new workshop series helps expand DPI’s efforts to develop promising and diverse tech talent in Chicago. Other partners in this initiative include World Business Chicago’s ThinkChicago program and Amazon Web Services.
Computing is the top source of new wages in the United States, and computer science accounts for the majority of new STEM jobs, according to Code.org. However, Black and Latinx populations currently make up just 12-14 percent of Chicago’s tech workforce overall, an inequity driven largely by inadequate and uneven access to high quality computer science education opportunities.
Between December 2022 and April 2023, almost 250 CPS computer science students attended day-long field trips to DPI’s downtown offices. As part of these intensive visits, students got an orientation to Chicago’s vibrant and diverse tech community from World Business Chicago; participated in hands-on learning activities related to computing; and heard interactive talks from tech professionals, as well as from former CPS students majoring in computer science at Chicago-area universities. Students also learned more about the University of Illinois and other learning opportunities to advance their interests in computing and tech.
“There are many good-paying and high-demand careers in emerging technologies that students may not be are not aware of,” said Chicago Public Schools Chief Education Officer Bogdana Chkoumbova. “These workshops allow our students to explore the tech field and ultimately determine how they may contribute and compete in this field in the short- and long-term.”
DPI hosted six workshops for 12 high schools during this pilot phase, which will expand in the 2023-24 school year. Participating high schools included: Air Force Academy, Alcott College Prep, Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, Corliss High School, Gage Park High School, John F. Kennedy High School, John Marshall Metropolitan High School, Lindblom Math & Science Academy, Orr Academy High School, Walter H. Dyett High School, Wendell Phillips Academy High School, and World Language High School.
“Pursuing computer science and technology fields can lead to fulfilling and lucrative careers, but too often high school students right here in Chicago are not aware of these opportunities,” said Mark Harris, director of the Pritzker Tech Talent Labs’ Community Education unit at DPI. “We are thrilled to be completing the pilot phase of this new workshop series with CPS students, World Business Chicago and leading tech companies like AWS, and will look forward to providing this exposure to more CPS students going forward.”
“ThinkChicago, World Business Chicago’s national program for early career talent, aims to turn Chicago into a national model for talent hubs by focusing on inclusive, diverse, talent retention and attraction strategies,” said Beatriz Kauffmann, ThinkChicago Program Manager. “It is through the meaningful partnerships with programs like this that we expose students at a young age to the expansive opportunities and careers in the city. We are proud to collaborate with DPI and AWS in this effort and are excited for the future generations of tech leaders raised in Chicago.”
“We believe that DPI’s efforts to engage Chicago Public High School students with careers in computer science and cloud services is incredibly important to the future workforce in the region. Inviting our AWS professionals to connect with the students, share their career journeys and lead students through hands-on activities has been impactful not only for our AWS leaders but also for students to meet successful mentors from similar backgrounds and lived experiences,” said Sarah Glavin, Head of Community Affairs for Amazon Chicago. “Students need to see themselves reflected in these career paths to build the skills and confidence to be the future builders of Chicago’s tech community.”
This program builds on DPI’s suite of programs for K-12 and community college students as part of its Pritzker Tech Talent Labs Community Education Unit. This includes the Digital Explorers program for middle school students; Discover Computing, run in partnership with Wright College and Google, for ninth and tenth graders; and the summer Digital Scholars program, in partnership with the University of Illinois Chicago’s CHANCE program, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the Grainger College of Engineering, for high school students to take college-level courses in computer science, data science, electrical and computer engineering, and mobile app development.
These programs have reached more than 600 students to date – 70%of which self-identified as Black or Latinx, and 38 %of which self-identified as women or non-binary. DPI anticipates reaching more than 550 Chicago students in its 2022-23 program year, with a continued focus on underrepresented populations in tech.
Please contact DPI’s Community Education Unit [email@example.com] for more information.
The Discovery Partners Institute empowers people to jumpstart their tech careers or companies in Chicago. DPI, part of the University of Illinois System, does three things: trains people for high-demand tech jobs; conducts applied R&D; and supports business building. With state investment, a new innovation district in development, and a high-powered network of university partners, DPI has the resources to attract, develop, and leverage the most ambitious people and companies the region has to offer — and keep them here.
Chicago Public Schools
Chicago Public Schools is dedicated to providing a high-quality education to all students, beginning with the District’s free full-day preschool programming for four-year-old scholars and continuing through neighborhood, magnet and selective-enrollment elementary schools that provide a rigorous K-8 education with schools that specialize in the fine arts, world language and culture, dual language, STEM, International Baccalaureate, classical programs, and more. The rising District-wide freshmen-on-track and high school graduation rates reflect the hard work of the CPS community, including families, staff, and students across 635 schools. CPS celebrates the diversity of its more than 322,000 students who cite 182 home languages. Learn more about CPS at www.cps.edu and connect with CPS on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and LinkedIn.