The Discovery Partners Institute, Wilbur Wright College and WBC’s ThinkChicago Program Team Up to Build A More Diverse Tech Talent Pipeline

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Summer workshop series will introduce City College students to Chicago’s dynamic tech sector

June 23, 2022 (CHICAGO) —The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), Wilbur Wright College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, and World Business Chicago’s ThinkChicago program have partnered together this summer to support and develop promising and diverse tech talent in Illinois, with a focus on pathways into computer and data science fields.

The partnership, which builds on a pilot completed last summer, features in-person weekly workshops on-site at Wright College and DPI for approximately 50 students representing all seven City Colleges of Chicago. The program meets weekly on Fridays from June 24 to July 22.

Called “Digital Bridge” these workshops will provide deep dives into Chicago’s tech community and connections to local technologists, entrepreneurs, business, and civic leaders.  World Business Chicago’s ThinkChicago program is helping to organize the sessions, which will feature leaders from across the tech industry.

Participating students are incoming first-and second-year students into the City Colleges of Chicago system with an interest in computer science, computer engineering, and related fields. It also includes current or aspiring students in Wright College’s National Science Foundation–funded Engineering and Computer Science Summer Bridge Program, which is a guaranteed admissions partnership with UIUC’s The Grainger College of Engineering, the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Armour College of Engineering, and UIC’s College of Engineering. The program seeks to create a pipeline of diverse students into these four-year institutions to pursue and complete CS and engineering fields.

“Through programs like Digital Bridge and Wright’s own NSF-funded Engineering and Computer Science Summer Bridge Program, we can create greater connectivity between students and the tech community, ignite interest, and generate more engagement to the limitless possibilities in tech,” said Doris Espiritu, executive director of the Engineering Program at Wright College. “As the City Colleges of Chicago’s Center of Excellence for Engineering and Computer Science, Wright College has been focused on providing essential math skills, mentoring and one-on-one holistic support to increase the transfer of students to four-year institutions to pursue and complete CS and engineering bachelor’s degrees.”

“The disparities in CS education have been driven by a lack of access, inclusion, and clarity about the pathways into these fields,” said Stephanie DeCicco, associate director of community college partnerships at DPI. “This program promotes greater access for historically underrepresented groups in tech to pursue computing fields and build smoother pathways from high school to community college to four-year universities and ultimately to a successful career in tech.”

“Chicago is a global top tier tech hub,” said Michael Fassnacht, President and CEO of World Business Chicago, and Chief Marketing Officer for the City of Chicago. “With this comes great responsibility, including that we ensure young Chicagoans have access to incredible career opportunities throughout the city’s tech ecosystem. World Business Chicago is proud to join Discovery Partners Institute and City Colleges to connect local students with some of the most exciting tech companies and startups in our city.”

Computer science education is foundational in today’s economy, essential for problem-solving and innovation, and for the economic mobility of workers. Computing-related jobs make up roughly half of all STEM jobs in Illinois — three times more than any other STEM field. Computing also represents the top source of new wages in the economy. Black and Latinx workers make up just 12% of Chicago’s tech workforce overall, and in 2020, only 14% of computer and data science graduates statewide were Black or Latinx. For more information about the Digital Bridge Program or Wright College’s NSF-funded Engineering and Computer Science Summer Bridge Program, please email Doris Espiritu at despiritu@ccc.edu or Stephanie DeCicco at decicco@uillinois.edu.

About DPI

The Discovery Partners Institute empowers people to jumpstart their tech careers or companies in Chicago. Led by the University of Illinois System in partnership with top research universities, it does three things: Train people for high-demand tech jobs; conduct applied R&D; and support business building. With state investment and a new innovation district in development, DPI has the resources to attract, develop, and leverage the most ambitious people and companies the region has to offer — and keep them here.

About Wright College

Wright College, an open-access community college in Northwest Chicago, is an independently accredited institution of the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) system. It is CCC’s Center of Excellence for Engineering and Computer Science with proven success in developing diverse talents in engineering and computer science. It is a federally recognized Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) with the largest enrollment of Hispanic students among community colleges in Illinois (approximately 60%). Learn more at ccc.edu/engineering.

About World Business Chicago, Think Chicago

In partnership with the Mayor’s Office and led by ChicagoNEXT, ThinkChicago is World Business Chicago’s national STEM attraction and retention program for Chicago technology and innovation companies. ThinkChicago invites university students from across the city, state, and country to unleash their career potential with Chicago’s leading technology companies. ThinkChicago’s flagship programs include three-day student immersive programs during two key cultural events – Lollapalooza and Chicago Ideas Week. Additional programs include campus events (roadshows), strategic partnerships with Chicago and Illinois universities, and ongoing marketing efforts to highlight why Chicago continues to lead and grow as a global tech hub.