Set to launch in fall, Powering Our Future program will expand STEM and skilled trades training for up to 1,000 Chicago students
CHICAGO (April 6, 2022) – ComEd, in collaboration with Big Shoulders Fund and United Way Metro Chicago, today launched Powering Our Future – a new initiative that will expand skilled trades and STEM training at four Chicago Catholic high schools. To remove barriers to entry to energy and skilled trades careers, a new $450,000 investment by ComEd and parent company Exelon will pilot the program in schools located in historically underserved communities.
Building on expansive STEM programming ComEd supports at Chicago Public Schools, this initiative will expand career pathways for women and minorities, who are underrepresented in STEM industries. Thanks to ComEd’s investment and support from local philanthropy, the new Powering Our Future program is set to reach up to 1,000 students over the next three years.
“Women and people of color continue to be vastly underrepresented in STEM fields, but though our investments in workforce training and STEM education, we are looking to change that,” said Terence Donnelly, president and COO at ComEd. “At ComEd, our goal is to ensure our workforce matches the diversity of the communities we are privileged to serve, and that our ongoing and critical infrastructure investment serves as a catalyst to create jobs for local residents.”
Powering Our Future will combine in-classroom and hands-on technical experience to help more students explore possibilities and build skills to work in key skilled trades in the energy/utilities, advanced manufacturing, and technology sectors. Powering Our Future is set to launch at four Chicago Catholic high schools in the Big Shoulders Fund network this fall:
- Josephinum Academy in Wicker Park
- Leo High School in Auburn Gresham
- Our Lady of Tepeyac High School, serving Lawndale
- St. Francis de Sales High School, serving East Side and South Chicago
“Big Shoulders Fund is thrilled to partner with ComEd and United Way Metro Chicago to not only build students’ knowledge of skilled trade fields, but also provide pathways to a wide variety of college, training, and career opportunities,” said Big Shoulders Fund President and CEO Josh Hale. “The four Big Shoulders Fund high schools participating prepare students to go on to become our city’s future workforce and leaders, and this program provides an important new tool to enhance that work and expand potential career paths for them to pursue.”
The program will introduce students to career pathways in the energy, utility and related sectors. Big Shoulders Fund will work with school staff to implement a new curriculum this fall – with in-classroom instruction led by current STEM teachers and staff, and ComEd supporting hands-on experiences including field trips, work-based learning, mentoring and technical classes. The program will serve as a steppingstone to advanced training by ComEd, including the CONSTRUCT Training Academy, and programs offered in partnership with Dawson Technical Institute of Kennedy-King College.
“United Way of Metro Chicago is excited to connect high school students in our Neighborhood Networks in Auburn Gresham and South Chicago with the Powering Our Future program,” said Sean Garrett, President and CEO of United Way of Metro Chicago. “Leveraging our coalitions in the Neighborhood Networks will help enroll more students in this vital program, providing pathways to future careers and ultimately building stronger, more equitable communities.”
The four schools are located in historically disadvantaged communities, within the Big Shoulders Fund network. With two of the pilot schools serving an all-girls population, this program also brings forward a first-of-its-kind opportunity to expand skilled trades-focused training for women.
“Building a skilled and diverse labor force to power our electrical needs today and tomorrow starts with investments in our young people,” said Terry McGoldrick, President of IBEW Local 15. “We applaud ComEd’s efforts to develop partnerships with local schools and community partners that will enhance skill building and expose more of our young people to the possibility of good paying jobs in the electric trades.”
Advancements in clean energy technology are expected to fuel new jobs for the future, with the Center for Energy Workforce Development estimating 2,000 new jobs in utilities in the Midwest region in the next three years alone. To ensure that future clean energy jobs go to diverse local residents – ComEd is taking steps to address inequities in STEM. As little as 9 percent of STEM jobs are occupied by Black Americans, with 7 percent by Latinos, and 28 percent by women.
Powering Our Future builds on the success of current ComEd education and job training programs, including: the Chicago Builds immersive skilled trades program for juniors and seniors; Create A Spark – a four-year STEM training and mentorship program for high school students enrolled in Chicago Public Schools (CPS); and STEM Home Labs, a leadership series designed to overcome barriers to STEM related careers. Last year alone, these programs helped reach over 1,000 students across the city of Chicago and involved participation by 174 ComEd mentors.
Over the next few months, Big Shoulders Fund will work with school communities to host virtual and community meetings where students can learn more about the program and how participating would enhance their own college and career plans. For more information about the Powering Our Future program and other STEM education initiatives, please visit ComEd’s website.
ComEd is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NASDAQ: EXC), a Fortune 200 energy company with approximately 10 million electricity and natural gas customers – the largest number of customers in the U.S. ComEd powers the lives of more than 4 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. For more information visit ComEd.com and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.