It may be hard to believe Lumity found a group of 30 high school students who are willing to trade their free Saturdays for the next 12 weeks. They are taking advantage of an opportunity to gain career skills, improve their communities and compete for thousands of dollars in scholarships. On Saturday, March 14, Lumity launched its STEM Saturdays program. Sponsored by Accenture and supported by volunteers from Allstate, Accenture and GE Capital, this program runs for 12 weeks on Saturdays, from 10am to 2pm. Students from local schools are teaming up to select a nonprofit or small business in their community that could use their help. Over the course of the 12 weeks, teams will assess the organization’s web presence, make a plan for improvement and implement that plan.

Students visit downtown Chicago officeAt the end of the 2013-2014 school year, a team of professionals from Slalom Consulting held a kickoff event at Amundsen High school for the Slalom Innovation Challenge. When the students returned in the fall, the team was ready to begin the first of four modules that would bring the students from the initial planning stage of a project to prototype and pitching stage by the end of the spring. Module 1 began in the fall when the students returned to school. This module served as a workshop and research stage to explore different customer needs in relation to the problem established. Participating teams conducted customer interviews, studied innovation topics and brainstormed product concepts often in the form of mobile apps. Slalom hosted the students in October where they pitched their product concepts based on the market research and interviews conducted in Module 1. Kristi Eilers, Assistant Principal at Amundsen, noted that for some students, this was their first experience visiting an office in downtown Chicago. While many were nervous at first, they left excited, motivated and ready to work hard to one day obtain a career like the ones they just observed. 

By Michelle Peterson and originally posted on Diversity Divide Panel High school junior Shannon Watkins didn’t have a career path in mind when she started at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy in Chicago, but her skills-based learning experience at one of Chicago’s five Early College STEM Schools (ECSS) — plus exposure to real IT workplaces like IBM and Razorfish — opened her eyes to some wild possibilities. “It was interesting being able to see different jobs people were doing that weren’t just teachers and police and firefighters,” said Watkins, now with a clear idea of her future. “I want to go into programming, because I’ve done it and I’ve seen how easy it is to code a website.” During “The State of IT: The Diversity Divide,” a panel hosted by CompTIA, the Creating IT Futures Foundation and Lumity, she and classmate Saul Sahagun shared their experiences attending a school that focuses on skills needed in the modern workplace — an educational initiative created to build a pipeline for talent and solve the IT industry’s skills gap.