News / Insights

CLX+ ISEIF Sparking Interest and Equity in Energy Pathways

  • Kiara Hardin

With more than half of the energy workforce expected to retire in the next five to 10 years, the workers necessary to power tomorrow’s economy and ignite future innovation in the field are today’s learners. Yet, too few young people – especially those of color or in underserved communities – are unaware or have access to education and workforce opportunities within science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Although the Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX) is often known for supporting innovation and serving as the glue among youth-development organizations in our learning ecosystem, we also live our values by piloting projects. Thanks to additional support from the Illinois Science & Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF), CLX is excited to continue to create a model for underserved high-school Chicago Public School (CPS) students to conduct career exploration through energy careers.

In 2019, CPS reported roughly 83% of students are African American and Latinx. Knowing this, CLX curated partnerships with CPS-Career, and Technical Education (CTE) to recruit students who were interested in engineering. These students received an opportunity to participate in a 6-week, learn- and-earn, program named Energizing Opportunities.

During the summer internship, CPS CTE participants were engulfed in a real-world opportunity and provided transit fares to commute to Dawson Technical Institute part Chicago City Colleges. Through CLX's rigorous academic and physical curricula, learners received first-hand exposure to what it takes to pursue the Overhead Electrical Lineworker career path and explore careers in the utilities. The ending ceremony included students earning digital-badges, which holds evidence of accomplishments. They toured a ComEd Training Facility, and were offered an opportunity to join the University of Illinois at Chicago STEM Scholar program (also generously funded by ISEIF).

For the summer of 2020, CLX and ISEIF are excited to announce the continuation of Energizing Opportunities with an additional focus on solar pathways. CLX will continue to work with Mumkin Studio and Learning Dimensions to create and modify the curriculum using an experiential learning pedagogy.

CLX hopes to reinforce the need for, and importance of, disseminating information about energy-related careers in the trades to individuals who have historically been underrepresented. Change does not happen in isolation, it requires open collaboration and partnership. With more than half of the energy workforce expected to retire in the next five to 10 years, today’s learners have to be provided the resources to ignite future innovation. With the help of ISEIF and our partners, CLX is setting out to equip learners to be the workers necessary to power tomorrow’s economy.

For more information about the Energizing Opportunities Program, please contact Kiara Hardin at khardin@chicagolx.org, and check out ISEIF's website!