Chicago Partnership Giving Camelot Students Exposure to Corporate World
Excel Academy of Englewood on Chicago’s South Side has joined forces with EduSerc (Educators Serving the Community), an organization that works with corporations to develop a diverse workforce pipeline.
The Industry Pipeline Leadership Development Program is a national professional leadership and personal enrichment experience that prepares individuals for technical, professional and personal success in prospective careers. The Chicago program, backed by Microsoft, SAP, and others, matches students with corporate mentors. The mentor helps the student decide on a career field. Students also participate in various industry field trips.
Then they work with the students over eight specific days throughout the school year, such as scheduled holidays when there is no school. The students must be motivated enough to invest their own time.
“It might interest people to learn that our students, on their days off, are spending time going through an industry pipeline program with major companies in downtown corporate Chicago,” said Rick Waddy, Director of Programming/Careers at Excel Academy of Englewood. “These students have dreams just like everyone else. We push them socially; that prepares them to handle the academics. These kids strive to be the best and are not going to be defined by the label of attending an alternative education campus.”
Throughout the year, students receive technical and professional development skills training, scholarship preparation assistance and project-based learning opportunities to prepare them for the workforce and their field of choice. Each participant will later connect with employers in Eduserc’s network for internships or job shadowing experiences.
This pilot EduSerc Chicago cohort has eight students, three of whom are from Excel Academy, including the student government president. Excel Academy’s executive director Kevin Sweetland says Camelot’s tremendous success with partnerships in Chicago can be directly attributed to all the time and effort that goes into preparing students for the opportunities presented to them.
“We put a lot of work in on the front end to position our students to be successful,” Sweetland says. “We don’t just find programs and say ‘go.’ We have trainings with students about professionalism; we make sure they understand the expectations. We break down the emotional stigma of going somewhere that you haven’t been before and trying something new because our students have a sense of angst about trying new things and going into new environments. So we work on preparing them for success in that program.”
The partnership with EduSerc continues a pattern of Camelot’s Chicago programs seeking opportunities for students to earn certifications before graduation. Last year Camelot formed a similar partnership with Pepsi to train students to earn their forklift certifications and move into jobs. Some have already begun working at the Pepsi plant.
Camelot has a robust robotics program at the Southwest campus, a coding program at the Roseland campus, a barber school program planned for the Southwest campus and a cosmetology program at the Englewood campus, both slated to begin in the spring. All of these programs lead to certification.
As for the future, Camelot sees bigger things with this partnership.
“We’re going to start recruiting in March,” Waddy says. “The Chicago area executive director of EduSerc is so impressed with the Camelot relationship that most of the 20 next year could come from Camelot’s four Chicago programs. We want to build a long lasting relationship with EduSerc. We’re actively working with them to create an exclusive Camelot cohort.