At City Colleges, we recognize we must do our part—by creating relevant educational pathways open to all and preparing our students with the supports to succeed. Each of our colleges features a Center of Excellence in a high-demand field, with curriculum informed by industry experts.
This didn’t grab the headlines, but it should have: Wilbur Wright College’s engineering pathway was just named one of the 2021 Most Inspiring Programs in STEM. More than 80% of students enrolled in Wright’s engineering program are Latinx or Black; 25% are women. No small feat, and it didn’t happen overnight. Our team built a summer bridge program between high school and freshman year to help students brush up on core STEM skills. We also built strong relationships with four-year university engineering programs so our students have a clear path to continue their education. It’s all part of our strategic plan rooted in achieving equity in student outcomes.
We are making similar moves in information technology. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals an underrepresentation of female, Black and Latinx professionals working in the information technology industry in 2018. Among U.S. software developers, for example, just 3.9% were Black, 5.3% were Latinx and 19% were women.
With support from local and global companies, we developed the Tech Launchpad at Kennedy-King College, the City College based in Englewood on Chicago’s South Side. Kennedy-King is now an approved training academy for Fortinet, Amazon and Cisco, and it partners with companies including Google, Apple, Cisco and SDI Presence for customized training and tech boot camps. The college is home to new and forthcoming programs in cybersecurity, game design, software development, web development and networking systems.
Through the Chicago Roadmap, our unprecedented partnership with Chicago Public Schools, we are working to offer career exposure and meaningful credentials while students are in high school.
We have redoubled scholarships and grants that provide students access to college. For instance, this summer we launched Future Ready, which offers high-demand, short-term college credentials at no cost to qualifying Chicagoans. And our Fresh Start debt forgiveness programs let students return to college and “learn off” pre-existing tuition debt. We have expanded supports—from loaner laptops and Wi-Fi to food pantries and more—to ensure our students are positioned to succeed.
There is still much work ahead of us to empower our most resilient students and close the equity gaps, and we cannot do it alone. We need Chicago companies to tap into our talent. Apprenticeships are a good beginning and make both sense and cents. When we uplift a student, they in turn uplift their family, and together, we all lift up our city.
Juan Salgado is chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago.