Career Calling

March 1, 2012

Questions about Chicago’s New Tech Schools

I want to like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to open/convert 5 high schools into 6 year technical schools, which will focus on skills needed for high tech jobs.  At the end of their education, students would have an associates degree and training for jobs that currently are unfilled.  Corporate partners including IBM, Cisco, and Microsoft are developing educational programs and providing summer internships.  They also promise to give students “first-in-line interviews” after graduation.

That’s my first question: What is really being promised?  If the internships are paid, that’s a good thing.  If not, it seems like some of America’s biggest, most profitable companies would be getting free labor.  We also need to study what comes of the interviews.  You can give 100 people a “first-in-line” interview without hiring one candidate. Time will tell if these acts of corporate citizenship are real. 

I also want to know: How will these schools impact existing programs at City Colleges?  The mayor has made some interesting proposals about having Chicago’s City Colleges offer programs that are aligned with employers’ needs.  That’s a good thing.  However, will these high school based programs complete or overlap the CCC programs?  Could this be an excuse to cut existing programs that have helped Chicagoans for decades?   

I hope this education reform is a sincere attempt to help young people and bring more jobs to the city.  If it is, three cheers for Mayor Emanuel.  However, I want to wait a few years before calling it a success.  Let’s ask some critical questions and see what kind of answers the program delivers.

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