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IBM grant to prep Chicago high-schoolers for tech jobs

Yesterday, IBM announced that the city of Chicago would receive a $400,000 grant to transform the curricula of five high schools into technology-focused learning programs, in an effort to prepare those students for tech jobs — after high school.

Few details about the new programs are set yet, IBM spokesperson Lisa Lanspery tells Science Careers. The grant mandates that IBM program directors, education experts, city officials, and teachers convene over the next 3 months to determine how best to weave the re-shaped curriculum into the schools’ current systems. Lanspery says officials are basing the experiment loosely on a similar, ongoing effort in Brooklyn, New York, called P-Tech.

In P-Tech, students enter high school in the 9th grade and stay
there for 6 years. They graduate with both a high school diploma and an
associate’s degree in applied science, equivalent to a degree
from a 2-year college. Graduates have first dibs on low-level (but
comparatively high-paying) computer architecture and software
development jobs at IBM, Lanspery says. “Getting them excited [about
technology] at an early age is important to us,” she adds.
IBM intends to offer similar job prospects to
graduates of the Chicago programs, Lanspery says, but also wants to
partner with other local tech companies to make jobs available to
graduates at those companies, too.
The details
will shake out over the next three months, such as whether the program
will adapt existing schools or build new ones (at additional expense obviously), and whether the new programs will follow the same 6-year track as Brooklyn’s P-Tech or take a new
approach.