Category Archives: Education

Chicago’s Holiday Events and Attractions

All across Chicago, venues are offering live performances for the Holiday season. From fine dining to theater performances, nighttime adventures to family-friendly frolicking, having an audience is the most precious gift of all to these businesses. Consider any of these local events for your holiday fun.

Theater Wit is hosting Chicago’s premiere of “Who’s Holiday!” through Dec. 26. Another Chicago debut is happening at the Apollo Theater, where Love Actually? “The Unauthorized Musical Parody is on through Jan. 2, 2022.

Chicago Philharmonic is celebrating a return to in-person performances with a “Holiday Brunch Concert” on December 12, hosted by City Winery Chicago – West Loop. Chicago’s children can enjoy some holiday fun at the Chicago Children’s Theatre where they can attend The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is live (and free) at the Strawdog Theatre Company.

Fifth Third Bank Invests in Chicago

Fifth Third Bank has announced a plan to invest $20 million in South Chicago, the defunct steel town abandoned by the departure of the South Works steel plant in 1992.

The investment plan includes $2 million in funding for grassroots efforts and $18 million in financing for residential and business loans. Fifth Third’s efforts, in partnership with Claretian Associates, are part of a three-year revitalization scheme to revive the area and correct extended periods of disinvestment and under-funding.

Chicago and Microsoft Partner for Digital Training

On October 1, Microsoft announced a new partnership with Chicago to provide free digital skills training courses for at least 300,000 residents.

 “Accelerate Chicago,” is meant to boost the employability of Chicago citizens who either lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic or those who have few digital skills at all. It will also offer “cross-training” for those looking to pivot their career paths. Accelerate includes free courses on several Microsoft applications and programs.

Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of Chicago, explained that the new program will allow the city to remedy the “socioeconomic fallout” of the COVID-19 pandemic by offering participants “good-paying, sustainable” jobs.

“We have an important opportunity to use this moment to better the lives of those who were struggling long before this pandemic ever struck.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, at a news conference with Microsoft President Brad Smith.

Accelerate has already been launched in New York, Atlanta, Houston, and Louisville, Kentucky.

Balancing the Tech Workforce in Chicago

As more and more investors ask companies to share the information reported to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, the realities of workforce representation of minorities and women are gaining new attention. For many firms and businesses, including those in Chicago, increasing participation by Black and Latino workers in tech jobs is a top priority.

Diversity in Chicago Tech Jobs

Google, for example, has 1,200 workers in its Chicago offices; African Americans make up 2.2 percent of technical jobs. Latinos make up only 4.8 percent of these jobs in the tech-giants national employment base.

The executives at Chicago firms say they have all seen the benefits of diversity in their staffing schemes. A healthy sharing of opinions, constructive debates, and meaningful exchange of best practices are only some of the positives that come along with expanding the hiring base. Unfortunately, not all Chicagoans are optimistic. Carlton Gates, an African American recruiter for Yum! Brands based in Chicago, and a former employee of Oracle and Google, says the tech-verse has been “talking about diversity for 20 years, and not a single thing has changed.” According to Gates, there is a tribal vibe on engineering teams, where little to no cultural or ethnic crossover happens.

With all this in mind, local companies with open tech vacancies are looking for new resources and pipelines to identify talent. They are also taking measures to modify the interview processes to abate bias and address issues that might be unique to minority populations.

Diversity in Chicago Tech Jobs

Chicago Keeps Going

All is not lost and there is optimism in the air. Despite the incredible challenges we have all been facing, Chicago is still going.  From new buildings to great educational performances, creative ways of maintaining and even growing local businesses, Chicagoans are trying to stay afloat.

The Pullman National Monument recently conducted a ceremony marking their progress on what will eventually become a new tourist attraction in Chicago’s South Side.   On the spot that passenger railroad cars were being built, the area is being renovated with over $34m in public and private funds.  Once complete it will become a visitors center for the national monument.

In the Southern Illinois University (SIU) system most students are back learning.  Some are in class, others, off and still others are in a hybrid program.  Through this, there is much optimism that there will be an ability to contain the spread of the virus.

When it comes to education it seems that Chicago figures are positive.  Over 82 percent of students graduated in five years last spring – which was 2% higher than last year. The 2019-20 graduation rates are said to have “shown resilience” and according to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot:

“This is incredibly great news when you consider the challenges we all faced this past year, especially our students.”

New National Resource in Chicago

There is a new initiative in Chicago.  The Institute for Mathematical and Statistical Innovation (IMSI) launched 4 days ago.  Its mission is: “to apply rigorous mathematics and statistics to urgent, complex scientific and societal problems, and to spur transformational change in the mathematics community and the mathematical sciences. This mission based on a vision with three fundamental elements: innovation, communication, and diversity.”

The entity is a joint venture between UChicago statisticians, Northwestern University, Chicago’s Illinois University and Urbana-Champaign Illinois University’s mathematicians working together to develop ideas that can hopefully impact today’s challenges in the science and technological fields.

With a $15.5 million National Science Foundation grant, the researchers will focus on the following areas: artificial intelligence, climate change, data science, economics, health care, quantum information theory and materials science.  According to UChicago President Robert J. Zimmer:

“The Institute for Mathematical and Statistical Innovation will be a critical national resource for applied mathematics, purposefully connecting mathematical and statistical methods and discoveries to applied science and technology in a way that reaches across disciplines and brings together a wide range of collaborators to address some of the most challenging problems of our time. We are excited to launch the Institute at the University of Chicago and look forward to seeing the impact of its work in the years ahead.”

Back to School – and Business – in Chicago

The long summer holidays are over and now children are finally heading back to school.  That means businesses are getting more back to normal as parents are finally able to return to their full time work schedules.

But some Chicagoans got back to work even earlier than the official end of summer date – Labor Day Weekend.  Parents were back at their desks over two weeks ago on August 14! Indeed, for most districts in Illinois, September 1st is just another day in the school calendar.  Maine East, Maine South and Maine West students all returned to school on August 14.

One district official explained that this move of returning to school earlier  began back in 2015.  The idea behind it was to finish the fall semester before students go back home for their December Winter break.  In theory it is also meant to relieve stress for high school students who really could benefit from the earlier break.

In other areas of Chicago – as well as public schools – kids returned to school tomorrow.  This past Saturday, hundreds of backpacks were given out in Garfield Park thanks to fundraising efforts of the church in University Village.

Rehabilitative Efforts

Rehabilitating prisoners into society

Rehabilitating ex-prisoners is never ever easy.  It comes with so many challenges and despite people’s best efforts recidivism rates are huge.  Indeed, a report conducted last year found that:

“Forty-three percent of those released from prison each year recidivate within three years of release and 17% will recidivate within one year of release…Taxpayers of Illinois pay one third- or $50,835 – of the cost of recidivism…for law enforcement, court costs and the costs of imposing sentences of community supervision or incarceration in county jails or state prisons.”

That’s why the recent efforts being made on the west side of Chicago using honey bees has to be welcome news!  One example of the positive impact of this program is from James Jones who was released from prison earlier this year after a three-and-a-half-year service for drug selling.  While he has a vision for what he wants to do ultimately (truck driving and even owning a truck company), for now he is in a halfway house training to be a bee handler.

Jones is one of many individuals hired by Sweet Beginnings – skin care products maker (using honey) which has five bee farms in the greater Chicago area for its company Beelove. Clearly this name is very appropriate since it shows its love by “offer[ing] full-time, transitional jobs to previously incarcerated individuals like Jones, who need help reintegrating into society. The new hires are trained to become beekeepers and learn about harvesting honey, production, filling orders, packaging, shipping and selling.”Jones reported he felt “excited” by being given a chance.  Getting a job isn’t easy when one has had no prior experience and not even a CV.

Founded by Brenda Palms Barber in 2005 in North Lawndale, the idea behind it was to “provide the workplace skills former inmates needed to rebuild their lives.”  Barber explained:

“The typical reaction we get when [former inmates] come to us is ‘What?,'” said Barber. “They don’t believe we are a real business until they see the products in stores. Then they realize they’re being hired by a real company and it boosts their self-esteem.”

And it’s working.  Close to 500 workers have been hired and have been offered 90-day employment and training with a $10 per hour starting wage.  What’s really impressive is the statistic that less than 4% of workers have returned to prison since the program has started.

In related news, a new appointment has been made at the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC).  Rob Jeffreys – a renowned criminal justice expert – has been in the industry for more than 20 years having worked at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections in corrections management.   He is Chief of Staff at the Agency, directing the Office of Human Resources (ODRC), IT and Strategic Initiatives Bureaus; he will now become Bureau Chief of Classification and Reception at ODRC.

Health and Educational Endeavors in Illinois

Illinois Hospitals

This year’s Leapfrog Group list of 118 America’s Highest Quality Hospitals features 7 from Illinois.  Chicago has four:

  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital,
  • University of Chicago Medical Center,
  • Amita Health Saints Mary & Elizabeth Medical Center
  • Amita Health Resurrection Medical Center

To gain the results the following was measured: efficiency, management structure, patient safety and quality.  Performances areas investigated were: infection prevention; limiting C-sections; using technology for improved care; leadership policies and practices.

Meanwhile,efforts are being made to enhance education in the state.  According to a recent statement put out by JB Pritzker, a new committee has been put in place to bolster “the educational standards for every student in Illinois from kindergarten through 12th grade up through college.

The establishment of the new committee – Educational Success Transition Committee – was announced last month at the Genevieve Melody STEM Elementary School.  CEO and co-Chair of Chicago Public Schools Janice Jackson said:

“We must acknowledge the fact that not every single student in every community has access to the same education.  And we intend to fix that–not only in our city–but throughout the great state of Illinois.”