i.c.stars Finds Managerial Training and Diversity Culture Predict Job Success for Inner-City Talent

CHICAGO—March 28, 2016 i.c.stars recently held a forum during which the non-profit presented key findings from an evaluation of its program, which has prepared inner-city young adults for technology jobs since 1998.

Commissioned as part of i.c.stars’ commitment to continuous learning, the evaluation assessed various aspects of diversity in the workplace, including how diversity is defined by Chicago employers – most often by gender or nationality, not by race or class. Additionally, the evaluation identified critical factors in alumni job success, including mentorship, managerial training and diversity culture.

Through more than 65 interviews the evaluation examined questions key to shaping i.c.stars’ future: Why are employers more or less likely to hire i.c.stars graduates? Is the four-month internship long enough? Are there certain types of jobs best suited to i.c.stars graduates?

Using language markers to detect bias in the responses, the evaluators found that cultural competence around race and class was missing; there was a gap between professed diversity and the reality in the conference room.

Key evaluation findings:
● Diversity is defined in terms of gender, nationality and sexual orientation, but rarely in terms of race or class.
● Using language markers to detect bias, evaluators found that cultural competence around race and class lacked in more than 90 percent of respondents.
● Mentorship, managerial training, and diversity culture are the best predictors of successful employment of i.c.stars alumni.
● The majority of managers interviewed would work with i.c.stars again if the decision were up to them.

“When I was working in Silicon Valley and there were diversity initiatives – if they were talking about blacks, that meant black men, if they were talking about women that meant white women. That means they were never talking about me, a black woman,” said Ce Cole Dillon, Chief Operating Officer of Student Loan 411 LLC and forum attendee.

As Sandee Kastrul, i.c.stars president and co-founder, asked for reactions among attendees – employees and executives from Brilliant Technology Staffing, Collabera, TransTech IT Staffing, Crowe Horwath LLP, The Brinson Foundation who provides i.c.stars with general operating support, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation who supports the program and provided funding for the evaluation, and others – there was a shared sentiment of the weight and importance of the findings.

“i.c.stars has historically focused on the supply side of the employment equation. However, we won’t affect large-scale social change as it relates to the many facets of workforce diversity unless we have an outreach program to the people who are going to engage with our graduates,” said Yvonne Scott, Chief Information Officer of Crowe Horwath LLP and i.c.stars board member.

Building on i.c.stars’ unique training and diversity knowledge, the evaluation, which was led by Eiren Caffall, will inform the organization’s strategic planning and define its next phase of growth.

“i.c.stars has acquired intimate knowledge of both the demand and supply side of diverse talent, helping alumni navigate the ‘unwritten rules’ in a corporate work environment. We are uniquely positioned to address this,” said Kastrul. “We are slowly changing the face of corporate America.”


About i.c.stars: Formed in 1999, i.c.stars is a Chicago-based non-profit organization and social enterprise that prepares young adults for technology careers and community leadership. Using project-based learning and full-immersion teaching, i.c.stars has trained more than 330 individuals in Chicago, and places 95 percent of qualified graduates in jobs. Alumni see their annual earnings increase by an average of 400 percent as a result of the program. In 2016, i.c.stars created Enterprise Next, a lean startup incubator and social investment fund to jumpstart alumni businesses. Learn more at www.icstars.org.

A Measurable Impact

Initial placement rate:
Industry retention rate:
College attendance rate:
Alumni actively engaged in their communities:
Average 12-month earnings before program:
Average 12-month earnings after program: