Positioned To Lead

Positioned To Lead

csmith's picture

A few days ago, we opened up the i.c.stars studio to a local meetup group called Netsquared. It was a great meeting to sit in on as the topic was “Social Media and Non- Profits”. These past few months we have been opening our doors to various Chicagoland technology and non-profit groups. We have hosted meetups for CommuniTeach, BDPA, rripl software, Inspire by L.O.V.E. and more. We feel like we are leaders in both the technology and the business space and find value in being able to share our resources with other organizations. We also are seeking to let people know who we are and what we are about.

i.c.stars (Inner-City Computer Stars) is truly a unique organization. We are a NPO, but are not funded at all by government dollars. We are a training program, but our goal goes beyond just training and job placement. We have been around over 12 years, and have a 95% initial placement rate and 81% of our graduates are still working in technology. Many people have heard of i.c.stars but do not really know who we are or what exactly we do.

We have recently had a major overhaul in many areas of our operations. I will briefly explain.

For the past 12 years, i.c.stars has been a 4 month internship with over 1000 hours focused on using full immersion project-based learning.

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Based on feedback we have received from perspective employers and sponsors, the model has evolved into a revamped training program that is 6000 hours of intensive training and experience over 2 years. This is more like a medical school model, with a focus on data and process analysis with systems integration. There are 3 different components to the new program including the 4 month internship, a residency, and a corporate fellowship. While the core of our program hasn’t changed much, we have added to it to better prepare our talent. We are committed to being a reliable source of young tech savvy talent, who are also leaders with social involvement in their communities.

The 4 month internship hasn’t changed too much. The cycle is still split into teams and there are 3 competitions that we facilitate using our corporate sponsors. This curriculum is constantly developing and changing to reflect the technologies and core competences used in the business world. There are many ways people can get involved; including becoming a sponsor and helping us develop our curriculum.

The next step in our new model is that the interns move into our residency program. Many non-profits are moving towards social enterprises or earned-income ventures as a way to offset funding in other areas. Here at i.c.stars, we have worked hard to develop a cutting edge social media business. The residency consists of i.c.stars hiring our interns to work with our growing list of clients.on live social media and web marketing campaigns as part of our social enterprise. People can get involved with the residency program by referring vendors and/ or business associates to us as clients or by setting up a formal partnership with us.

Upon successful completion of the residency, interns can then move into our fellowship program. At this stage in the program, they are placed on IT projects for up to a year with some of our various corporate partners offsite at their location. This is a way for our fellows to gain experience and see what it is like in a corporate environment. This also allows the sponsors to “test drive” the talent that we produce before offering them a permanent role and also helps motivate them to hire based on performance.

The final aspect of the program is during this two year period, the interns are also earning an Associate’s Degree through a partnership the City Colleges of Chicago. Most employers are looking for talent that has both relevant experience and a degree. At i.c.stars, we provide both. Out of the 6000 hours of the program, 1600 of them are focused on education.

This is a very exciting time for i.c.stars. Along with this new model in place for the program, we are looking to rapidly expanding our social media arm of the organization. After over 5 years of testing, we have developed an excellent and high quality process to increase our client’s online impact and influence through the use of e-newsletters, blog postings, LinkedIn, Facebook, and of course Twitter. We have the resources to ensure client satisfaction as we are constantly grooming our process.

i.c.stars is a part of the ever growing Chicago tech landscape that is here to stay. We are thankful to all of our supporters and sponsors who have continued to help us grow over the years. The current intern cycle, Cycle 23, is the first to go through this new process and we are very excited to see how this turns out. They are currently working on project 2 – a business plan competition - and doing great so far! You can get involved by clicking here and signing up to be a tea speaker, learning how our social media offerings can work into your marketing goals , or by participating in one of our 4 annual events.

i.c.stars is situated in a unique position in the marketplace. CIO’s participate in our mission at the board level, employer level, client level, and attend our events to help us raise the funds necessary to run our program. Multiple opportunities throughout the year are available for you to interact with technology leaders, gain the insight of what peers are doing and network among colleagues.

We have made many exciting changes at i.c.stars. How has your organization restructured to face the changes in the economic climate and remain aligned with your core business objectives?

A Measurable Impact

Initial placement rate:
95%
Industry retention rate:
81%
College attendance rate:
44%
Alumni actively engaged in their communities:
70%
Average 12-month earnings before program:
$9,000
Average 12-month earnings after program:
$31,000