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90 Early College STEM Schools Students in Chicago Gain Valuable Technology Internship Experience

Aug 13, 2015 - Downers Grove, Ill. — Today, 90 students across five Chicago Public Schools’ Early College STEM Schools (ECSS) finish their paid, skills-based internships, gaining valuable business and career experience. Funded by a grant from the Chicago Workforce Funders Alliance, CompTIA and its philanthropic arm, the Creating IT Futures Foundation, connected 27 local employers with the students, vetting the students and employers and helping to structure the internships to give the best possible experience to both the students and employers.


“IT employers need to expand their workforce pipelines, and students need real-work experiences to help them navigate education and career paths,” said Gretchen Koch, executive director of workforce strategies, Creating IT Futures. “Internships help bridge the connections between students and employers. Our research developed the 4Ps of successful internships and several internship models, showing ways in which any employer can offer valuable internships like the ones with the ECSS students.”


Eighty-five percent of the internships were technology-focused, from website consulting and networking to programming and digital media production. Employers and sponsors included:

  • 1871

  • All Natural Chicago

  • BLUE 1647

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield

  • Breakwater Chicago

  • CDW

  • Chicago Public Schools

  • Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance

  • Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Foundation

  • Chicago Youth Center

  • Cisco

  • Digital Professional Institute/Tribeca Flashpoint College

  • Diversity MBA Magazine

  • Early Bird

  • Green Tech Summer Camp

  • Honorary Chicago

  • IBM                                               

  • Illinois Institute of Technology

  • Literacy Chicago

  • Lumity

  • Matter

  • Mercy Housing

  • Microsoft                   

  • Motorola Solutions

  • National Restaurant Association

  • Nectel

  • Perfect Fit Post

  • PreTrip Master

  • Rico Enterprises

  • STEM Girl Network

  • TapGenes

  • Verizon

  • Victoria LCS


Kelly Sundberg, academic account manager, Microsoft, commented on the internships, “To put them in the work place, it gives the students a more realistic expectation of what the career is that they’re pursing and lets them make the best informed decisions as they move forward in their studies.”


Chicago has five STEM schools (Chicago Vocational Career Academy, Corliss High School, Lake View High School, Michael Clark High School and Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy) that allow students to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. Work-based learning and business partnerships, like summer internships, help students relate their education to current business needs.


Chicago businesses have especially not been able to fulfill their tech hiring needs. According to an analysis of labor market data by CompTIA, Illinois employers posted 53,388 IT job openings in Q2 2015, compared to 28,312 in Q2 2014 – an increase of nearly 90 percent. The large majority of postings – nearly 47,000 – were in the Chicago metropolitan area. 


“For supervisors and managers to see the students in high school as capable of doing this work and, in some cases, exceeding the work college interns are doing, it’s really changing expectations for our students,” commented Charlotte Johnson, manager, corporate citizenship, IBM. “It’s a testament to the fact that students are doing work that’s valuable and creating value for their managers.”


Richard Dominguez, executive director, Literacy Chicago, added, “Their skill level has been very high. They (the interns) know how to work the PCs and web pages, and their knowledge really has brought a lot to the table.”


The students in the internships were rising high school seniors who possess a combination of “tech-ready” and “work-ready” skills, and many also are taking college IT courses in one of ECSS’ technology pathways: networking, computer science or web development. As such, they bring a high level of maturity and motivation to their internships. 

Eric Berngen, technology chair at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy, commented, “It’s been great to see the independence of our students and them getting the projects and just running with it.”


“I most enjoyed running into difficulties when I’m working on a specific task, because it gave me and my partner Raven Lamar to collaborate and share ideas and use our problem-solving skills,” claimed Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy student Jazmine Jordan.


“There’s a saying that if you love your job, you don’t work. I love this (my internship) and waking up and coming here,” said Lake View High School student Michael Aldape who worked at Literacy Chicago this summer.


Creating IT Futures is actively looking for more businesses to step forward for this school year to help with mentoring, corporate visits, classroom projects and speaking opportunities. Interested businesses can sign up at:


A short video summarizing the ECSS internship experience is available at:


About the Creating IT Futures Foundation 

The Creating IT Futures Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity with the mission of helping populations under-represented in the information technology industry and individuals who are lacking in opportunity to prepare for, secure, and be successful in IT careers. Learn more at


About CompTIA

CompTIA is the voice of the world’s IT industry. Its members are the companies at the forefront of innovation; and the professionals responsible for maximizing the benefits organizations receive from their investments in technology. CompTIA is dedicated to advancing industry growth through educational programs, market research, networking events, professional certifications and public policy advocacy. To learn more visit CompTIA online, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.