Pritzker Foundation Gives $10 Million To Develop Diverse Tech Talent In Chicago

Looking to develop a more diverse tech talent pipeline in Chicago, the Pritzker Foundation is donating $10 million over five years to launch inclusive training programs at the Discovery Partners Institute.

The funding will establish the Pritzker Tech Talent Labs at DPI, a Chicago-based research and training center, with the goal of helping more women and people of color land tech jobs.

“This is a project to build a more inclusive economy and get more people the support they need,” said Penny Pritzker, former U.S. commerce secretary and trustee of the family foundation.

The talent lab, announced Tuesday, will offer career training for high school students to learn in-demand skills such as coding, along with internship placement, guidance and “last mile” financial support to supplement students receiving federal and state aid.

A program for existing workers will include education in such areas as machine learning, artificial intelligence and 5G wireless technology; collaborations with corporate training programs; and a master’s degree in tech leadership.

By 2029, the talent lab is looking to annually help 7,000 people secure tech jobs, including more than 3,000 women and people of color.

Pritzker, the sister of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, said Blacks and Hispanics make up only 12% of Chicago’s tech workforce, an opportunity gap that is threatening to grow wider during the economic disruption of the pandemic.

“We have to do more to help workers, particularly women and people of color, acquire the skills they need to adapt, adjust and thrive, given this accelerating impact of automation and digitization, and the fraying social safety net,” Pritzker said.

Part of the University of Illinois system, DPI was announced by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2017 and formally approved as an academic institute last year. The initiative includes job training, research and development, and bolstering the growth of Chicago’s tech community.

Based at 200 South Wacker Drive, DPI is building a $250 million headquarters in the South Loop on land donated by Chicago developer Related Midwest, with plans to relocate there by 2025.

“There’s a huge gap. … People can’t find enough tech talent, particularly midcareer tech talent,” said Bill Jackson, DPI’s executive director. “So this is a huge opportunity for Chicago.”

In addition to having trouble finding qualified employees, Pritzker said tech companies want a more diverse workforce. She said the talent lab will help elevate the city’s tech community and be a force for economic equity.

“It’s great for business,” Pritzker said. “Fundamentally, this is the right thing to do.”

Originally posted by Robert Channick

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