The University of Illinois System has announced a five-year, $10 million grant from the Pritzker Foundation in support of the Discovery Partners Institute and efforts to develop more diverse tech talent in the state.
The funding will establish the Pritzker Tech Talent Labs at DPI and support efforts to help workers in the state secure high-paying tech jobs. To that end, the labs will launch a high school-to-career pathway program that includes instruction in high-demand skills, internships, mentoring, guidance counseling, and last-mile financial aid and emergency financial support, as well as a program aimed at providing Black and Latinx professionals with education in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and 5G; assistance working with corporations to develop their own training programs; and a master's degree in tech leadership. According to the foundation, Black and Latinx tech professionals currently comprise only 12 percent of Chicago's tech workforce.
DPI has named Omowale Casselle, co-founder and CEO of technology education program Digital Adventures, as the inaugural Pritzker Director of Tech Talent Labs.
"COVID-19 has worsened our already significant income inequality, accelerated tech adoption, and made the need for upskilling even more acute," said Pritzker Foundation trustee and former U.S. secretary of commerce Penny Pritzker. "We simply must do more to help our workers, particularly women and people of color, acquire the skills needed to adapt and thrive given the accelerating impact of automation and digitization. This important new initiative at DPI will help build a more inclusive economy by increasing opportunity for the diverse talent in our region."