Chicago Public Schools Honors Class of 2023 Chicago Builds Graduates
06 June 2023
CPS Students Graduate with Industry-Recognized Certifications
CHICAGO – Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Pedro Martinez honored Chicago Builds graduates today during a celebration with students, families and community members at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 134. Chicago Builds is an industry-recognized pre-apprenticeship training program where students explore multiple career pathways in the construction industry. In addition to earning their high school diploma, approximately 66 Class of 2023 Chicago Builds graduates earned industry-recognized certifications in electrical, carpentry, heating and cooling (HVAC) and welding. These graduates are among an estimated 14,000 CPS students enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes, including 1,000 scholars who explored the District’s Model Pathways Programming in addition to about 7,000 students in Early College STEM High Schools.
“Chicago Builds offers students interested in the trades skills a pathway into their chosen field and a link to specialized union training programs that often seem out of reach to our young people,” said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “Partnerships with IBEW Local 134 and ComEd are essential to providing every student with the resources and tools they need that will propel them toward a successful future.”
Chicago Builds was established in 2016 to provide students with a clear pathway to a career in the building trades after high school. Through Chicago Builds, CPS students can earn up to five credits over their junior and senior years. They begin with a 10-week rotation that covers the basic skills in electrical, carpentry, HVAC and welding. Students can then move on to advanced training in these fields.
"Our move to a cleaner energy future requires swift action and skilled talent, which is why we at ComEd are investing in training programs that connect people from our communities to new jobs created by the clean energy transition in Illinois,” said Gil Quiniones, CEO of ComEd. “By partnering with CPS through the Chicago BUILDS program, we are preparing a new generation to oversee the electric grid as it expands to accommodate new clean energy technology needs, like solar and EVs. At the same time, we recognize that by expanding access to STEM and trades training we are putting more youth on a path to family-sustaining careers.”
All Builds participants can also work towards certifications in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10 Construction Safety Construction, a program designed by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) Core for entry-level construction workers that introduces students to basic construction skills and prepares them for entry-level positions on project sites and medical training in CPR and First Aid.
“The skilled trades offer a multitude of robust career paths that provide family-sustaining wages and long-term earning potential,” said CPS Chief Education Officer Bogdana Chkoumbova. “Chicago Builds ensures that our students, often from underrepresented communities, are aware of the skills and credentials needed to connect with skilled trade employers or become successful entrepreneurs as they leave CPS and become active members of our diverse communities.”
Chicago Builds students learn from industry leaders and develop technical skills that can lead to gainful employment while still in high school as well as help them start a career after graduation. Builds training integrates construction, math, and literacy skills, and helps students develop entrepreneurship skills, and prepares them for union entrance exams and certifications. Students also participate in internships, visit union training facilities, complete a capstone project, and prepare for pre-apprenticeship entrance exams.
Through a partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, approximately 34 Class of 2023 graduates received a grant to continue advancing their skills through the Illinois Works Construction Pre-apprenticeship Program. The state-recognized pre-apprenticeship program provides skills training through a network of non-profit, community-based organizations, including community colleges, faith-based organizations and business associations in the construction industry and building trades. Participants attend tuition-free and receive a stipend and other supportive services to help overcome systemic barriers to entering the construction industry.
“Chicago Builds helped me develop new skills that allowed me to explore different career paths,” said Yakira Jefferson, a Class of 2023 Wendell Phillips High School and Chicago Builds graduate. “Through the program, I was able to meet great people with similar interests and goals.”
Eighteen Class of 2023 graduates will begin their journey towards an electrical career through IBEW Local 134’s Trainee Program, a post-secondary employment opportunity available to qualified Builds graduates. Students from the Chicago Builds Program who fulfill the eligibility requirements are provided with industry training for a period of one week after their CPS graduation. Upon successful completion of the training week, students begin to work for an electrical contractor in Cook County for a year. This year, the trainee receives guidance and support for necessary applications and assessments through the IBEW Local 134’s Apprenticeship Program. Trainees learn on the job and earn a steady paycheck while developing their skills toward becoming fully-licensed electricians.
In addition to Chicago Builds, CPS offers at least 35 Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways at over 80 high schools across the city, including 12 construction trades programs, five carpentry, three in electricity, three in welding, and one HVAC program. The District’s CTE programs allow students to gain work experience for in-demand careers as well as provide opportunities to earn early college credit and industry-recognized certifications and skills training at 12 CPS high schools.
CPS has developed a strong partnership with the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) through the Chicago Roadmap, which aims to support students along a seamless path to and through post-secondary training on their way to their chosen careers. This alignment between CCC and CPS works to address achievement gaps and to improve communication across systems to better prepare students for success in high school and beyond. Chicago Builds highlights this network of supportive and aligned government and community partner services that allow students to explore careers and connect them to opportunities that will make them competitive for high-demand occupations.
Together with CCC, the District is also working to establish a talent pipeline with support from the Blum-Kovler Foundation through the Master Builder Construction Trade Program. The Master Builder Program allows students to earn Dual Credits from CCC as high school students focused on construction and skilled trades.
Chicago Builds is part of the District’s commitment to equitable, student-centered education that prepares students socially, emotionally and academically to enter the workplace, a training program, or higher education.