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.

Last Friday, January 23rd, three Chicago companies graciously opened their doors to more than 60 students to demonstrate technology’s role in vastly different industries. STEM United groupAt United, students learned how technology is used to schedule flight attendants’ shifts, track airplane safety and maintenance work, and predict and communicate weather conditions to keep flights safe and on schedule. The students even tried their hand at the last part, working in groups to offer solutions to a potential flight delay due to a storm covering the southwest.

The Winter STEM Launch event at Truman College was a dynamic collaboration between Chicago Public Schools, the Illinois Institute of Technology and Truman College. This was the third STEM Launch event and it was led by Professor Mike Davis. The event was a huge success and it reached the anticipated attendance capacity of 50 high school students. Throughout the event, students participated in hands-on STEM enrichment activities that used the MaKey MaKey invention kit (see video below). The popular MIT educational technology tool was used in conjunction with the SCRATCH program language. These tools enabled students to build and program video games, musical instruments and turn everyday objects into electronic controllers.

“To position yourself favorably for the jobs of the future, become someone who can look at problems in unorthodox ways, seeing different angles and finding workable solutions," David Tuffley wrote in an article on The Washington Post website. In the article published in early January, Tuffley writes about the jobs of the future…and how to get one. What is largest sector to get a shout out from Tuffley? Information technology. His list of jobs included analysts of many kinds, web and mobile application developers, and of course, robotic specialists. Tuffley’s other predictions are hardly surprising: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, school teachers, psychologists, financial advisors, engineers in all areas, and even sales reps and construction workers. But more importantly than job titles, Tuffley outlines what he calls “generic skills” and what are commonly called “soft skills” or social and emotional intelligence. These include: