A new learning lab will give students and educators at Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago expanded access to technology training and infrastructure.
“What we learned from this pandemic, technology is no longer an elective. It is a necessity,” said Pedro Martinez, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools. “You cannot get information without technology. There’s no job that exists that doesn’t have technology.”
The Innovation One hub at Truman College comprises various learning spaces as well as a podcast studio and a library with technology equipment students can borrow. Satellite locations for Innovation One will also open at Olive-Harvey College, Kennedy-King College and Arturo Velazquez Technical Institute.
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The learning lab is a product of a partnership between Apple and City Colleges. As part of its community education initiative, Apple donated equipment and is providing training opportunities.
At the launch Wednesday, city leaders said the technology learning lab will train students in information technology and create a pipeline to the technology workforce, which has some of the highest paying jobs.
“How do we help our children see what’s possible for them, get them to a high-paying job where they can be self sufficient?” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said. “Our role is to be the connectors from K-12 to the community college ... but, more importantly, to break the barriers in these industries.”
Black and Brown residents are underrepresented in the technology industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed a need to change the trajectory of the numbers, especially as the industry continues to have a growing presence in the Chicago area.
“It’s beyond critical that we connect Chicago’s own talented and diverse resident with these lucrative tech jobs,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the skill set in our workforce, to be able to help them take full advantage of these opportunities.”
In Chicago and cities across the country, access to technology opportunities is often defined by ZIP code, said Shawn L. Jackson, president of Truman College.
The space was created to combat that digital divide, he said, and serve students, educators and community members with varying levels of comfortability with technology.
“If I can build a computer from scratch ... and code, this space is for you. If I am someone who does not have access to technology and am not comfortable with technology, this space is also for you,” Jackson said.