On Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), along with community leaders from the Bronzeville and Oakwood community made a major announcement to establish a comprehensive citywide construction trades program at Dunbar Career Academy High School.
With the partnership of the Chicago Building Trades and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) the move is to bring back the trade school model to public schools in preparing graduates for the workforce—with a professional skill.
Due to increasing demand by employers for the skilled trades, the “Construction Trades Campus at Dunbar” is designed to create a model school focused on teaching students skills in the following industries: general construction; carpentry; heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC); welding; and electricity. These investments will provide Chicago’s students greater choice in career paths and training that will set them on a path to the middle class.
“An investment in education is an investment in our future, and the new specialized trades school will teach our students competitive skills that are in high demand by businesses across the city and throughout the country,” said Mayor Emanuel. “I want to thank the Chicago Building Trades and Congressman Bobby Rush, who were instrumental in bringing these programs to Chicago’s students. By infusing our schools with strong partnerships like these, we can improve access to the middle class for our students, while signaling to employers the strength of our future workforce.”
Dunbar will expand its current career and technical education offerings to serve as a citywide hub for students to gain entry into the construction trades. The Construction Trades Campus at Dunbar will offer an intensive two-year option for students from schools throughout the city to attend daily classes that will provide them access to the construction trade industry and the requisite skills to pursue paths such as apprenticeships, post-secondary education, certification programs, or a living-wage job.
Mayor Emanuel and CPS worked closely with the Local School Council, community, Chicago Building Trades and Rep. Bobby Rush for several months to make the plan to create the new trade school a reality. The expansion returns Dunbar to its roots, which had a construction trade focus when it first opened in 1942.
“My commitment to Dunbar has been lifelong because I live in this neighborhood and I want to see the youth succeed. Dunbar high school students will now have an opportunity to gain the necessary skills to build a career in the trades and sustain a living,” said Rep. Rush. “This endeavor will serve as a model that highlights the impact of public-private partnership in shaping the lives of young people by offering them an alternative to what’s currently before them.”
In collaboration with experts in the trades, CPS will launch a new custom-made curriculum this fall to ensure that student learning aligns with industry demands and to prepare students for jobs that exist today. In the first year, the program will serve up to 120 students through a dual-cohort model, which will serve both Dunbar students and applicants from surrounding CPS high schools through a citywide application, with preference for students in the community.
Students who complete the two-year cycle will develop foundational skills in a chosen pathway, authentic workplace experience, a portfolio of work in a specific field and an understanding of specific union application processes, while utilizing applied math and establishing a post-secondary plan.
To ensure students are exposed to modern professional practices, CPS is partnering with McCormick Place, construction firms and trade unions including the Regional Council of Carpenters, IBEW Local 134, IUOE Local 150, Laborers’ District Council, and Pipefitters’ Local 597, which will help guarantee the program is a relevant, useful introduction to the skilled trades. Additionally, Peoples Gas has committed to hosting students for a training program at their new training facility.
CPS is now accepting applications for the construction programming at Dunbar for the upcoming school year. To learn more about construction trades pathways and to apply, please visit ChicagoBuilds.org