STEM for All —The Future at Work with Chicago Codes

 |   Karin Norington-Reaves, CEO, Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership

Microsoft is committed to supporting people of all ages with programs that increase their skills and help build a “future-proof” workforce. For several years, Microsoft has been deeply engaged with other civic leaders in Chicago and Cook County, including serving on the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership Board. The Workforce Board focuses on programs and resources to help all residents get a good job and increase their economic mobility. Specifically, Microsoft and the Partnership are working together on a new initiative recently announced by Mayor Emanuel, “Chicago Codes”. Chicago Codes is focused on building new programs which are  designed to meet the growing need for computer programmers and strengthen the city’s growing tech sector.

Building IT skills clearly will help people find 21st century jobs. In a recent report, the Partnership identified the following careers as top priorities in Chicagoland:

  • Software developers, applications
  • Computer systems engineers/architects
  • Web developers -Computer systems analysts
  • IT project managers

Microsoft will be working with the Partnership to develop curriculum, career pathways, “soft skills” and  help convene potential employers for Chicago Codes participants. We are just at the beginning of developing this program, and are excited about the possibilities. Please read a personal blog from Karin Norington-Reaves about the new Chicago Codes program and how you can get involved.

— Shelley Stern Grach, Director of Civic Engagement

Lately, it seems I hear about STEM everywhere I turn. From radio to television to the internet of things, technology is a conversation piece. Elementary and high schools are incentivized to develop and expand computer science curricula; and programs abound targeting girls and people of color (traditionally underrepresented in these fields). Why? Because our society is in the midst of its next revolution — the Technology Revolution.

We live in a society in which 2 year olds operate tablets, cell phones and other devices with ease for their amusement. Soon, those same skills will be a necessity. Data analysts theorize that 65% of today’s 8 year-olds will work in jobs that have yet to be created. If that’s true, we better get prepared for a changing workplace.

Recently, The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, announced our foray into the world of STEM with the creation of Chicago Codes, a tech initiative launched in an effort to tap into the hidden talent in Chicago’s south and west side neighborhoods. We’re focusing on these predominately African-American and Hispanic communities to increase diversity in our local tech economy and to build a foundation for the labor force of tomorrow.

Chicago Codes is just one of many technology initiatives underway across the City. From coding camps to Career and Technical Education, neighborhood technology centers to community colleges—our educational and workforce preparedness hinges upon far-reaching programming with support and guidance from the private sector. These collaborations are critical to ensuring that we not only remain competitive but that our communities thrive.

To learn more about Chicago Codes visit

Karin M. Norington-Reaves is a lifelong public servant with more than 25 years of experience in education, law, advocacy, community and workforce development. In 2012, Karin became the founding Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership) upon her appointment by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.