CTE Apprenticeships Chicago

The CTE programs in Chicago have a strong foundation to continue to be appealing and viable options for students. Still, additional research is needed to understand how CTE programs in Chicago can help overcome a persistent inequity—that a significant percentage of Chicagoans are not participating in and/ or are left out of the workforce. Regrettably, Chicago is mired in ongoing discrimination in housing and school reform policies that presently have made the city one of the most racially segregated in the nation (Lipman, 2011). These discriminatory policies and practices deplete low-income communities and communities of color of vital resources needed to not only gain access to employment but also gain the education and training necessary to become employable. More research is necessary to understand how high schools, community colleges, and industry leaders are working in concert to use CTE programming as one possible solution to addressing inequities for many Chicagoans navigating the workforce. Thus, within the sociopolitical landscape of Chicago we need more data that tracks how both high school and community college CTE programs link young people to employers and employment opportunities.

Chicago SkylineThe Chicago Landscape of Career and Technical Education

This brief provides an environmental scan of CTE educational and career programs with a chief concern regarding access and equity (or lack thereof); and how CTE programs can aid students in overcoming persistent inequity that translates into high youth unemployment among students of color in Chicago.


Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) houses 12 of the 16 nationally recognized career clusters. Career clusters are groups of occupations and industries that have in common a set of foundational knowledge and skills. Among these career clusters students can choose to specialize in one of forty different programs of study (Jankowski, Kirby, Bragg, Taylor, & Oertle, 2009). Career pathways are multi-year programs of academic and technical study that prepare high school students for a full range of postsecondary options within each of the 16 clusters. Programs of study are sequences of courses that incorporate a non-duplicative progression of secondary and postsecondary elements, which include both academic and career and technical content (Jankowski et al., 2009).

In 2010, CPS reorganized 250 non-standardized CTE programs into 80 College and Career Academies at 35 high schools. These College and Career Academies (CCA) provide approximately 20,000 students with college prep courses like math, science, and English, as well as hands-on experience in their specific industry. CCA students also have the opportunity to receive scholarships, attain industry-recognized certifications, earn college credit, participate in job shadows and internships, attend college fairs and tours, and compete in city, state, and national competitions (Chicago Public Schools, 2016a).

Work-Based Learning Experiences

CPS also partners with industry professionals and organizations that give students opportunities to put skills they learn in their CTE courses to practice via real-world work-based learning experiences (WBL). Some WBL opportunities are similar to an apprenticeship and include job shadows, internships, cooperative education, guest speakers, and site visits. WBL experiences typically occur during the junior and senior years of high school (Chicago Public Schools, 2016b).

Classroom guest speakers and one-day site visits are usually a student’s introduction to exploring how their CTE coursework applies on the ground. During one-day job shadows students are partnered with an industry professional who serves as both teacher and mentor. Students complete their job shadow in the spring of their junior year. Internships occur the following summer, once the student has completed two years of CTE curriculum. Internships give students the opportunity to apply the academic, technical, and employability skills emphasized in the CTE courses. Internships differ from youth employment in that they are a highly structured and supervised learning environment. Finally, cooperative education, i.e. co-op or work study, is paid employment for only the strongest CTE students and provides on-the-job advanced skills training aligned with a particular CTE pathway (Chicago Public Schools, 2016b).

Selective-Enrollment High Schools

CPS has 11 selective enrollment high schools. These schools were originally targeted efforts to keep white families and their children in the school district, and as a result were located in gentrifying and affluent neighborhoods. Over time a significant percentage of white students have left CPS, resulting in white student enrollment of fewer than 10%.

Hancock College Prep and Jones College Prep are the only selective-enrollment high schools in CPS with CCAs that have eligibility requirements. There are also a few CCAs that are selective in enrollment, such as Health Sciences, Law and Public Safety, IT - Cisco Networking and Information Technology, Database Programming Academy, and Pre-Engineering and these are considered academically rigorous. Student acceptance into both selective-enrollment high schools and CCAs is based on middle school GPA and local and state assessment scores (Chicago Public Schools, 2016c).

City Colleges of Chicago

Illinois has 16 of the nationally recognized career clusters with the option of earning a basic certificate, advanced certificate, or an Associate of Applied Science degree (Illinois Community College Board, 2016). There are over 170,000 community college students enrolled in CTE programs in the state of Illinois (Association for Career & Technical Education, 2016). During 2013–14, the majority of students were enrolled in the Health Science concentration. There were also 8,432 more male than female students enrolled in the CTE program (Perkins Collaborative Resource Network, 2014). However, in 2015 female student enrollment increased to 54%, outnumbering male students (Illinois Community College Board, 2016). In addition to general education standards there are also program-specific standards for postsecondary CTE programs, and CTE program length varies from one semester to two years (Illinois Community College Board, 2016).

The City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), specifically, offer CTE programs at each campus in the following areas: business; information technology; education and training; human services; manufacturing; transportation, distribution and logistics; and health sciences. CCC currently serve over 100,000 students (City Colleges of Chicago, 2016a). As of 2014 students of color make up 81% of the enrollment at the CCC, granting them the Minority-Serving Institution (MSI) designation (City Colleges of Chicago, 2016b).

In 2011, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in partnership with CCC, launched College to Careers (C2C), which is a program aimed to promote partnerships between the CCC and industry leaders (City Colleges of Chicago, 2016c; City of Chicago, 2014). The expectation is that through these industry partnerships the CCC can align their curricula to better meet the ever-changing demands of certain growing fields (City of Chicago, 2014). At its inception C2C targeted healthcare and transportation and logistics as these were considered two growth industries. It is anticipated that by 2020 Chicago will need 75,000 more healthcare practitioners and 4,000 new truck drivers to fill potential job openings (City of Chicago, 2014). CCC and corporations collaborate around three specific purposes: 1) curriculum design and creation of certificate programs, 2) curriculum delivery, and 3) access to internships, interviews, and facilities (City of Chicago, 2014). Currently, via the C2C initiative the CCC partners with over 50 corporations (City Colleges of Chicago, 2016b). In 2015, nearly 57,000 students were enrolled in C2C programs, representing over half of the CCC’s total enrollment (City Colleges of Chicago, 2016a).