Youth Pathways: forging industrial career paths for Chicago’s young students

With the support of La Fondation Dassault Systèmes in the US, the Chicago Industrial Arts and Design Center is bringing the shopfloor to the city’s public schools youth, opening unique and equitable opportunities for them to embrace a career in STEM, trade, art or design with its Youth Pathways program.

As a kid, Matthew Runfola was fascinated by mechanical objects. As a grown-up, he knows how fortunate he was to have supportive mentors and relatives that would encourage him to pursue his passion. Yet it was the practical, hands-on application that really propelled his classroom learning and ultimately led him to get his mechanical engineering degree.

Drawing on his experience, Matthew went on to create the Chicago Industrial Arts and Design Center (CIADC), with the ambition to bring real-world industrial art, design and technology to the young people of the area by providing them with a non-traditional, more appealing learning environment.

Bringing students to the shopfloor

As a non-profit, charitable organization, CIADC provides students from 11 to 19 with hands-on learning materials and technology, a proper workspace and shop tools, along with the skillset, expertise and community for them to learn about and practice industrial design and fabrication techniques. From casting and molding, metalworking and forging, technology and design to woodworking, CIADC Youth Pathways program classes offer a safe, effective, and fun learning environment for all levels of ability and interests.

In the end, the Youth Pathways program helps to:

  • promote and generate interest for industrial arts, design and technology
  • connect these interests to career opportunities
  • weave in-school learning with hands-on applications to learn real-world skills

Importantly, in a city where 73% of the public schools student population is underprivileged and financially disadvantaged, the Youth Pathways program provides equitable access to the hands-on applications of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math that industrial arts offer.

Bringing the shop to the classroom

CIADC is not only opening their shopfloor to the students. They also work with schools and teachers. While they introduce several aspects of the classroom curricula into their shops, in turn, they bring their knowledge and know-how of object design and fabrication into the classroom.

Teachers are key influencers of their students. In order to reach and inspire more and more young people overtime, the team at CIADC had to onboard and train them, showing the value and help they could offer. With the support of La Fondation Dassault Systèmes in the US and its volunteers, CIADC were able to provide teachers with dedicated 3D applications as well as straightforward, fun and easy-to-use classroom methods and learning aids to integrate the principles of design and engineering into their traditional curriculum. This initiative was extremely relevant to make more school students aware of the program and boost enrollment.

A career springboard for Chicago’s youth

Providing access to industrial arts and design techniques is the first step for students to discover domains that would otherwise remain unknown and why not consider embracing a related career. It is hence extremely important that it can reach an increased number of students every year.

Enabled by the support of La Fondation Dassault Systèmes in the US, the FREE for Chicago Public Schools scholarship program – through which the CIADC offers full-tuition scholarships – has already opened their hands-on classes to more and more in-need youth. The organization is now proud to serve 250 diverse students annually: an increase of 150% since the Youth Pathways program inception in 2021.

A great push to increase the appeal of STEM, trade, art and design careers in an equitable way! And an inspiring example to follow in other states?

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Adopted by all United Nations member states, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. La Fondation Dassault Systèmes supports the Youth Pathways program in meeting three of these goals: Quality Education, Decent Work and Economic Growth and Partnerships for the Goals.

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About our partner

Chicago Industrial Arts & Design Center

Chicago Industrial Arts and Design Center (CIADC) is a not-for-profit, charitable organization whose mission is to provide continuing education, access, and community for 3D object makers working with materials and processes requiring industrial workspace, specialized skill-sets, and shop equipment. Featuring dedicated studio departments in Casting & Molding, Metalworking & Forging, Technology & Design, and Woodworking, this multidisciplinary industrial arts and design resource center offers classes for both teens and adults.