As part of Chicago’s effort to match thriving local tech firms with top-notch and diverse talent, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot joined leaders from education, tech, and workforce development sectors and announced new and expanded programs to help close the tech industry’s equity gaps, including the creation of a new Tech Launchpad at Kennedy-King College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago.
Housed in Kennedy-King College’s new technology lab, the Tech Launchpad will offer credit and non-credit academic programs, developed in partnership with leading local and global technology companies. At the event with leaders in the local tech economy, World Business Chicago announced that City Colleges would be the newest anchor partner for its ThinkChicago program designed to attract and retain STEM talent in Chicago. The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership) will assist eligible Launchpad participants by covering training costs and reaching out to employers searching to build a much-needed talent pipeline.
“We are bringing an array of resources to bear to connect employers with motivated Chicagoans to fuel a growing and inclusive tech economy,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “City Colleges’ investment in Kennedy-King’s Tech Launchpad makes technology education accessible and affordable to all Chicagoans. Combined with the contributions of our city and county workforce partners, we are building equitable paths of entry into lucrative tech careers.”
The Tech Launchpad and related city and county efforts are driven by two imperatives: social equity and workforce equity. According to an environmental scan conducted by Northern Illinois University, 23 percent of residents living in the neighborhoods surrounding Kennedy-King College lack access to a computer and another 14 percent with a computer lack internet service. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018) reveals an underrepresentation of women, Black, and Latinx professionals working in the information technology industry. For example, among U.S. software developers, just 3.9% are Black, 5.3% are Latinx, and 19% are female.
The Tech Launchpad represents a clear part of a regional workforce strategy for the future, and a key component of the City of Chicago’s “Forward Together” plan, the first Covid-19 recovery effort of any major U.S. city.
“We thank the many partners who have come together to build a robust tech talent pipeline in Chicago,” said Chancellor Juan Salgado. “The Tech Launchpad will serve as a cornerstone in the effort to prepare Chicagoans from every neighborhood for high-demand tech careers.”
“The Launchpad offers a young person growing up on the South Side who loves video games the chance to learn how to design those games and it offers parents who care about keeping their kids safe online the chance to pursue their own careers in cybersecurity, close to home and at low to no cost,” said President Gregory Thomas. “Our knowledgeable faculty and supportive staff, combined with the industry insights of our corporate IT partners, will help ensure Kennedy-King becomes the educational home for the tech-curious and tech passionate alike.”
Kennedy-King College is now an approved training academy for Fortinet, Amazon, and Cisco and partners with companies including Google, Apple, Cisco, and SDI Presence for customized training and tech boot camps.
New and forthcoming credit programs include: a cybersecurity AAS degree and certificates (launching Fall 2021), a game design AAS degree (launching Fall 2021), software development (launching Fall 2021), a web development AAS degree and certificates (launching Fall 2022), and a networking systems AAS degree and certificates (launching Fall 2022). Courses may be offered in-person and remotely.
SDI Presence has made a $1 million gift to Kennedy-King College to support the Tech LaunchPad and support its efforts to increase equity in the tech field, and has provided more than 20 City Colleges students with work-based learning experiences in the technology field.
“We are also committed to the goal of addressing inequity in the tech sector and are all-in as a partner to City Colleges in preparing Chicago students for tech careers,” said David Gupta, founder and CEO of SDI Presence.
World Business Chicago, the City’s public-private economic development agency, named City Colleges as the newest anchor partner for ThinkChicago, Chicago’s STEM talent attraction, and retention effort, joining fellow anchor partners: the City of Chicago and the University of Illinois System. ThinkChicago will continue to grow their entire portfolio of student immersion events and create a new dedicated program track for City Colleges students to explore career opportunities within the city’s thriving tech and innovation ecosystem.
“There is incredible momentum underfoot in Chicago in many industries and sectors, especially technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship,” said Michael Fassnacht, President and CEO of World Business, and Chief Marketing Officer, City of Chicago. “Chicago’s status as a leading global city continues to rise. Today’s news that City Colleges is joining our ThinkChicago program as a new anchor ensures CCC students have access to promising career opportunities with local companies and startups who are thriving right here in our city.”
Kennedy-King College has created an easy-to-use online form for people interested in enrolling in this curriculum and employers seeking access to this skilled workforce, which can be found at http://techlaunchpad.ccc.edu/.
The Partnership, a longtime partner of City Colleges of Chicago, offers federally-funded tuition vouchers (Individual Training Accounts) for students seeking training and professional credentials in a variety of sectors. Job seekers and employers can reach The Partnership by texting “techworks” to 474747 for more information about the Tech Launchpad, training opportunities, and The Partnership’s network of delegate agencies and services.
“The Partnership specializes in advancing career pathway opportunities for this region’s high growth, high-demand sectors, including Information Technology,” said Karin M. Norington-Reaves, CEO of The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. “We partner with a variety of small and large employers with IT needs and ensure they have access to a robust diverse pipeline of talented. This new Tech Launchpad, and its focus on expanding equity in this workforce sector, is an important addition to IT training opportunities in Chicago and aligns beautifully with our efforts. We are proud to support this work.”
The Tech Launchpad is centered at a new IT training lab on the Kennedy-King College campus in Englewood. The 1,500 square feet, $840,000 training lab includes 20 advanced graphics computers, modularized workstations for independent and small group collaboration, network server racks for instruction, and space for game development.
To remove financial barriers for students, Kennedy-King College will offer the Tech Launchpad Scholarship in addition to the Statesmen and Star Scholarships, as well as debt forgiveness to qualified returning students through the Fresh Start debt forgiveness program. A number of programs have been offered completely free through generous grant support.
For more information about the Tech Launchpad, go to http://techlaunchpad.ccc.edu/. Registration is underway now for Fall classes.