The campaign to give Chicago Public School students the expertise they need to qualify for technology jobs got a boost on Thursday, thanks to a process Mayor Rahm Emanuel likened to speed dating.
The mayor said he summoned honchos from ten construction and engineering firms, many of them city contractors, to a City Hall meeting and convinced them to agree to forge partnerships with and develop pre-engineering programs for ten more CPS high schools.
That will broaden the scope of a program he calls, “Engineering Futures” from six high schools to sixteen.
The new partnerships include: Alcott College Prep and JGMA Architects; Austin College & Career Academy and GMA Construction; Curie High School and Turner Construction; Foreman High School and Sodexo; Lindblom High School and EXP; Mather High School and Landrum & Brown; North-Grand High School and Jacobs Engineering; North Side College Prep and RTM Engineering; Phoenix Military Academy and AECOM Tishman and Schurz High School and WSP.
The new corporate partners will work closely with high school principals to help develop engineering curriculum that follows “current and future industry standards.”
The focus will be on developing both “hard and soft engineering skills,” technical expertise and problem-solving abilities needed to graduate from college, even if students don’t ultimately become engineers.
The James Dyson Foundation simultaneously announced a new internship program that will give students at Amundsen High School, Disney II High School and Hancock College Prep a taste of engineering at Dyson Corp.
“You may not become an engineer. You may not become a computer scientist. You may not become a coder. But you’re going to need that language in the same way you need English to succeed,” Emanuel said at a news conference at Amundsen after touring the school’s Dyson Lab for engineering students.
Emanuel said he makes that statement as the father of three teenagers who is about to become an empty-nester.
“Two in college and one about to leave. Free at last. Free at last,” he said to laughter.
The mayor also joked about the speed-dating-style meeting that convinced the ten engineering giants to forge their partnerships with CPS high schools.
“A couple of weeks ago, we wanted to expand it. I refer to that moment upstairs on the fifth floor [of City Hall] as the eHarmony moment,” Emanuel said.
“We told the ten engineering firms, ‘You’re not walking out until you have a principal in hand and a school.’ Then, we shut the door and we waited about five minutes. Everybody found a partner.”
In 2015, Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, joined forces with two other North Side aldermen in an effort to draw more resources to Amundsen and Lake View high schools.
Their goal was to convince North Side families otherwise fleeing to the suburbs to consider both open-enrollment, secondary schools as viable options to elite test-in selective enrollment schools.
On Thursday, O’Connor joined the mayor at Amundsen to talk about the advice his four daughters got from their grandfather.
“He said, ‘There’s enough lawyers in the world. One of you at least should become an engineer.’ My daughter Courtney is now an engineer,” O’Connor said.
“She is somebody who I look up to every day because she creates and builds things. It’s just an amazing thing to look at someone who can envision something, then build it.”
During Thursday’s tour of Amundsen’s Dyson Lab, O’Connor said a “remarkable young man” was asked what he liked about the program.
“He said just that: ‘I can build here what I can imagine.’ That’s an unbelievably powerful statement…It’s just phenomenal,” O’Connor said.
Shortly after Emanuel took office, IBM awarded a $400,000 challenge grant to CPS used to develop a “playbook” for five high-tech high schools.
Four months later, five technology giants joined forces with CPS and City Colleges to open six-year public high schools that allow students to graduate with an associate’s degree and the expertise they need to qualify for technology jobs.
The U.S. Department of the Navy subsequently made a five-year, $2 million investment in students at Chicago’s Rickover Naval Academy and at the five other high schools specializing in science, technology, engineering and math – known as STEM.
Thanks to the Navy, up to 1,000 students attending those six schools benefited from intensive summer enrichment programs, year-round mentoring and free computer science classes at City Colleges to earn advanced college-level credit.
The Chicago program has been described as a “full-day, STEM summer camp” that will build on what students learn during the school year.