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Chicago Builds

Chicago Builds is a citywide, two-year off-campus construction training program for CPS juniors and seniors interested in pursuing a career in construction after graduating high school. Chicago Builds is an Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program site and offers the Master Builder program in conjunction with City Colleges of Chicago.

Students participating in Chicago Builds receive technical training in Carpentry, Electricity, Heating and Cooling (HVAC), Welding, and General Construction. Students will receive high school credits for successful completion of the course curriculum. They also have opportunities to earn industry-recognized certifications (OSHA 10 Construction, CPR,-First Aid, NCCER), prepare for union entrance exams, and participate in paid work experiences during the 11th grade summer transition to Year 2 of the program.

Students participating in Chicago Builds will earn 2.5 credits for each year (1.25 credits per semester) of participation in the program, which are applied toward their Career Education and Electives graduation requirement. Student attendance is the most crucial requirement to successfully completing the course curriculum.

Chicago Builds classes meet five days a week as part of the regular school day at the Chicago Builds Construction campus at Dunbar High School (3000 S. King Drive). There are two cohorts of students participating in the program:

  • The AM cohort runs from 8:45 am - 10:45 am
    (Students return to their respective home schools after class.)
  • The PM cohort runs from 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    (Students travel to class from their home schools after completion of their daily course work.)

Chicago Builds Information Sessions

Chicago Builds @ Dunbar High School 3000 S King Dr, Chicago, IL 60616

  • Saturday, February 24th, 2024 | 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Wednesday, March 6th, 2024 | 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
  • Saturday, March 23rd, 2024 | 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Wednesday, April 10th, 2024 | 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

How to Apply to Chicago Builds

Applications are open to all current 10th and 11th grade CPS students as of January 1st and close May 24th. Early enrollment applications will close on February 29th, 2024. Priority is given to 10th grade applicants (rising 11th graders) and those who have completed all requested documents, including the Parental Consent Form and the Student and Parent Expectations Contract

Apply to Chicago Builds

Upon acceptance, a letter of congratulations will be sent to selected students. Students are required to “accept” their seats before enrollment is official. The first day of class is on the very first day of school. The program follows the CPS district calendar, including all CPS holidays and school breaks.

Curriculum Overview

Year 1 (11th grade): Students participate in an Introduction to Construction course, completing a 10-week rotation in each of the construction pathways (Electrical, Carpentry, HVAC, Welding). Students are exposed to multiple career pathways in the construction industry, hear from guest speakers and leaders, and develop skills that can lead to gainful employment.

Year 2 (12th grade): Students specialize in one of the pathway areas to gain in-depth knowledge, related skills, and career-specific entrance requirements. Students participate in internships, visit union training facilities, complete a capstone project, and prepare for the pre-apprenticeship entrance exam.

Careers in Construction

Most workers in the construction industry are either structural, finishing, or mechanical workers, with some performing activities of more than one kind. Careers include:

  • Carpentry: Carpenters construct or remodel residential and commercial buildings and can earn $37 - $45 per hour.*
  • Electrical: Electricians install and maintain all of the electrical and power systems for homes, businesses, and factories and can earn $40 - $45 per hour.*
  • Pipefitting/Welding: Pipefitters install, assemble, fabricate, maintain, and repair mechanical piping systems for refineries, power stations, and factories and can earn $46 - $51 per hour.*

*All salary ranges are subject to change based upon industry standard.

Chicago Builds Partnerships and Advisory Council

Chicago Builds works with both union and non-union partners to maximize opportunities for students, including:

  • Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO)
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 134
  • Peoples Gas
  • Power Construction
  • Women in the Trades - CWIT
  • General Construction Firms
  • Regional Council of Carpenters
  • Chicago Associated Steel Erectors
  • Pipefitters Local 597
  • International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 150
  • Laborers’ District Council
  • American Bridge Company
  • CISCO (Construction Industry Service Corporation)
  • Sodexo Magic
  • Chicago Fabricators
  • McCormick Place
  • Chicago Transit Authority
  • Walsh Construction
  • ComEd
  • Hire360
  • Revolution Workshop

Frequently Asked Questions


Chicago Builds LogoIllinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program logo

Curtis Lewis Program Manager


3000 S. King Drive, Suite 136 Chicago, IL 60616