The Landscape of Chicago Career and Technical Education

by Devean R. Owens and Anjalé D. Welton / Oct 20, 2016

The State of Illinois, and the City of Chicago in particular, have some of the highest unemployment rates in the country for youth ages 16–19 and 20–24, and both lead the nation in Black youth unemployment (Cordova, Wilson, & Morsey, 2016; Ross & Svajlenka, 2016). In our feature brief, "The Chicago Landscape of Career and Technical Education," we provide an introductory overview of career and technical education (CTE) programs in both Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). CTE is one programmatic solution to address this equity concern by providing youth the academic and technical skills needed to become more employable.

CPS’ CTE programs are structured as 80 College and Career Academies (CCA) at 35 high schools and serve approximately 20,000 students. CCA students also have the opportunity to receive scholarships, attain industry-recognized certifications, earn college credit, participate in job shadows and internships, and participate in cooperative education, which 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, 2016a; Chicago Public Schools, 2016b).

The CCC 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. The CCC currently serves 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 launched College to Careers (C2C), which aims to partner with industry to align the CCC's curricula to better meet the ever-changing demands of certain growing fields (City of Chicago, 2014). Currently, via the C2C initiative the CCC partner 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 total enrollment (City Colleges of Chicago, 2016a).

In the future, we will highlight specific CTE programs and initiatives in the Chicago area and the innovative partnerships between high schools, community colleges, and industry that make them possible.


Cordova, T.L., Wilson, M.D., & Morsey, J.C. (2016). Lost: The crisis of jobless and out of school teens and young adults in Chicago, Illinois and the U.S. Chicago, IL: Greater Cities Institute, University of Illinois at Chicago.

City Colleges of Chicago (2016). Diversity. Chicago, IL: Author.

City Colleges of Chicago (2016a). Fiscal Year 2015: Statistical Digest (Revised 6/24/2016). Chicago, IL: Author.

City Colleges of Chicago (2016b). College to Careers. Chicago, IL: Author. 

Ross, M. & Svajlenka, N.P. (2016). Employment and disconnection among teens and young adults: The role of place, race, and education. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution.