Chicago has introduced an apprenticeship program to create a talent conduit for the city in the field of technology.
The DiverseTech program will educate 25 apprentices in areas such as cybersecurity and digital services, in response to the city government’s increasing demand for IT positions. It also seeks to provide residents of underrepresented communities with new skills and career opportunities.
The initiative is a public-private partnership between the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Assets, Information, and Services in Chicago, as well as the Discovery Partners Institute at the University of Illinois and SDI Presence, a Chicago-based IT services company.
Former mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the plan the week prior to Brandon Johnson’s inauguration as Chicago’s new mayor on Monday, May 15. According to a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office, the program will continue under the new administration.
“This is a landmark initiative to cultivate our diverse local technology talent,” Lightfoot stated.
“Chicago needs more tech talent, and this program will provide underserved communities with meaningful career opportunities and pathways.”
Numerous cities have highlighted the difficulty in attracting and retaining IT and technology-related employees.
For one year, SDI will employ, manage, and mentor up to 25 apprentices. The partnership will recruit individuals from Chicago’s historically underrepresented communities, including through community colleges.
The program commences with twelve weeks of pre-apprenticeship training developed by the Discovery Partners Institute.
“The answer to modernizing the city’s technology workforce can be found within the city limits and in underutilized communities,” said Bill Jackson, executive director of the Institute. “These positions are frequently outsourced, but we know that investing in these kinds of opportunities will benefit both the city and its residents.”
SDI will engage the apprentices as full-time employees for the duration of the program, providing them with a salary, benefits, professional development opportunities, and mentoring.
The city will determine which technological requirements and services have the highest priority and will work directly with apprentices under an existing contract for technology services with SDI.
The city departments will “give the apprentices the highest preference for technology-related employment permitted by law, city hiring policies, and collective bargaining agreements” upon conclusion of their employment with SDI.
In addition, the municipality will convene a working group that will issue a set of recommendations for changes to policies and bargaining agreements in order to establish direct pathways for apprentices into technology-related employment.
“DiverseTech will modernize the city’s technology, resulting in improved services for residents and businesses,” said Nick Lucius, the city’s chief technology officer.
“Private companies in Chicago will have access to a proven model and a tactical program implementation playbook in order to add diverse technology talent to their supply chain.”