Chicago Career Tech (CCT)
On October 12th, 2009, Mayor Daley announced the creation of TechCorps (later renamed Chicago Career Tech, CCT). On the next day, the Sun-Times reported that “Tech Corps was the most intriguing of three technology initiatives that Daley is asking the private sector to support.” Shortly thereafter, World Business Chicago assumed responsibility, with support from Civic Consulting, for launching Chicago Career Tech.
Nearly 30,000 Chicagoans have lost their jobs in this recession of 2009 and find themselves stuck in a "no-man's land" between government job training services, which are typically aimed at low-wage, low-skill individuals, and private sector outplacement services, which are typically provided to displaced workers making about $80,000 or more (Exhibit). Many of those in the middle held white collar jobs, were single heads of households, and own (or owned) homes. They have few resources to fall back on as foreclosures loom, and little hope of accessing training that could make them more employable in today's technologically-driven economy.
At the same time, the jobs these workers lost are for the most part gone. Unlike past recessions, where workers were called back after the economy turned around, jobs are being eliminated. Without higher levels of technological competence, these long-working Chicagoans risk joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed. The impact goes beyond the individuals, since these displaced workers also face the highest rates of foreclosures, which are devastating middle class neighborhoods across the city.
Chicago Career Tech is the City's response. CCT is a job retraining path into technology positions for displaced white collar workers. The goal of CCT is also to make Chicago more attractive to prospective employers, by developing a more technologically competent workforce. As described below, it is a unique program, that could be a model for future efforts across the nation.
Chicago Career Tech targets low to middle income Chicagoans with at least a high school diploma who have been recently laid off and could benefit from additional technology training to upgrade their skills. To be eligible, participants need to have been earning $25,000-$75,000 in their previous job and either currently receiving or have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits in the State of Illinois.
Chicago Career Tech integrates classroom training with hands-on learning experiences. During the six-month, six day-a-week program, participants spend three days a week with a local business for three months and three days a week with a nonprofit organization for three months, gaining valuable experience and expanding their professional network. One day a week is dedicated to self-study and career services provided by Challenger, Gray & Christmas. At the core of the program, participants complete technology-based certificate programs relevant to those sectors (e.g., health care and IT) where market analysis suggests hiring is most likely. Participants receive a weekly stipend in addition to continuing to receive unemployment insurance benefits, if eligible.
To fund CCT, the City of Chicago is investing $25 million over the next three years. Chicago Career Tech also receives support from federal, state, corporate and foundation funding to continue to grow the innovative program.
Private Sector Participation
In the spring of 2009, the Mayor’s Office approached Civic Consulting for help in assessing the feasibility of Chicago Career Tech. With support from Huron Consulting, DeVry, Microsoft, Lee Hecht Harrison, and Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, Civic Consulting staff and our partners analyzed the demographics of recently laid off workers, likely job openings, and opportunities for job retraining. At the same time, Mayer Brown helped to evaluate the legal requirements for allowing participants to receive a stipend without reducing unemployment benefits.
When responsibility for incubation and launch was trasnferred to World Business Chicago, Civic Consulting Principal Marie Lynch moved to WBC to serve as Founding Executive Director. In the meantime, CNA, Microsoft, and other local funders stepped up to provide seed funding that underwrote the first class, which officially launched on May 17, 2010.