In our ongoing efforts to support high-quality college and career pathways, EdSystems is learning valuable lessons through the Scaling Transformative Advanced Manufacturing Pathways (STAMP) initiative, a partnership with the IMA Education Foundation. From pathways design to work-based learning and scholarships, EdSystems is working with eight Illinois regions to equip students with the skills and opportunities needed to thrive in the manufacturing industry.

College and Career Pathways

Through the allocation of STAMP funds, EdSystems has witnessed a rapid acceleration of alignment to College and Career Pathway Endorsements among participating school districts. Out of the 20 districts involved, 12 have already applied and eight have been approved by the Illinois State Board of Education for full College and Career Pathway Endorsements alignment in the 2022–23 school year. The remaining districts are expected to apply in the following academic year, ensuring full alignment within two school years.

Among the districts that submitted College and Career Pathway Endorsements course sequences, students now have access to an average of ten early college credit hours in manufacturing, welding, and engineering combined. This impressive credit-hour offering surpasses the endorsement benchmark and aligns with Illinois’ Model Programs of Study Guide in Manufacturing and Engineering. Notably, a significant focus has been placed on advanced manufacturing and machining, with an average of six credit hours per district, followed by welding, with approximately three credit hours per district. Additional sporadic use of courses such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and engineering has also been observed. We are encouraged by the emphasis on advanced manufacturing and machining, which opens doors to a broader range of high-potential occupations and postsecondary training, often provided by community colleges.

Work-Based Learning

A key goal of STAMP is to target our efforts to student populations that are underrepresented in manufacturing and face barriers to training and employment, including females and students of color. Work-based learning opportunities can play an important role in inspiring and encouraging underrepresented students to see themselves in the manufacturing world.

To inspire young women to envision themselves pursuing careers in manufacturing, we recognize the need to spotlight more women in manufacturing and provide woman-to-woman mentorship opportunities. A clear first step is for schools and student-serving organizations to explicitly request guest speakers or employee tour guides who can serve as relatable role models for students. By sharing their authentic experiences, including successes and challenges, women in manufacturing can break down stereotypes and inspire the next generation.

Innovative models and collaborations between high schools and employers have been instrumental in enabling students under the age of 18 to participate in internships. Strategies such as initially placing students in departments like quality and production before transitioning them to on-the-floor jobs have proven successful. Moreover, exposing all students to the full range of occupations in manufacturing is crucial. For example, it is important to ensure that young women are not limited to stereotypical roles but have the opportunity to explore and pursue any job within the manufacturing sector. To support the design and implementation of innovative, high-quality experiences aligned to a manufacturing pathway, we gathered models and resources in a new Work-Based Learning Continuum for Manufacturing resource.

To bridge the gap between student expectations and the reality of postsecondary courses, it is essential to emphasize the hands-on nature of manufacturing education. Addressing misconceptions and providing hands-on experiences during career exploration activities, such as fairs and guest speaker events, can help students better understand the exciting possibilities available in manufacturing. Initiatives, such as Chicago Public Schools’ Women in Manufacturing & Engineering Expo and CTE Women in the Trades guest speaker series, are pivotal in inspiring young women and fostering their interest in the field (to learn more, watch I-WIN’s “Supporting Young Women in Manufacturing” session recording).

EdSystems is currently collaborating with employers, including human resources representatives, to develop a comprehensive guide on hosting high school interns for an internship or apprenticeship in manufacturing. This valuable resource, planned for release in fall 2023, will benefit both employers and educators in facilitating meaningful career development experiences.

Scholarships / Currency

Recognizing the importance of reducing barriers to manufacturing education and careers, the IMA Education Foundation and EdSystems launched a new scholarship program for students who graduate with an endorsement in manufacturing. The $500 scholarship is designed to be flexible, so students may use the funds as they see fit to reduce financial barriers to continuing on the manufacturing pathway after college. Students may elect to use the award on tuition, fees, textbooks, room and board, school supplies, job training equipment, uniforms, etc. The scholarship can be awarded directly to students or, if necessary, sent to the awardee’s postsecondary institution.

While the scholarship was initially designed to incentivize postsecondary enrollment and completion, the feedback we have received from several school districts highlighted that many manufacturing students aspire to start working immediately after graduation. In response, future iterations of the scholarship program will explicitly state that it can be awarded to students who have a local job offer from a manufacturing or industrial company and intend to pursue that opportunity. This expanded eligibility will accommodate students’ diverse career pathways and aspirations.

Additionally, there is a growing movement of community college incentives targeted at endorsement earners. In 2022, EdSystems launched an initiative with seven Illinois community colleges and their high school partners to create currency opportunities for students in the manufacturing, engineering, technology, and trades (METT) and health sciences and technology pathways. For instance, Illinois Valley Community College and Joliet Junior College are both now offering tuition waivers for one three-credit-hour course to students who have earned College and Career Pathway Endorsements, incentivizing endorsement earners to pursue postsecondary education.


Over the next year, the EdSystems team will be supporting STAMP communities through the roll-out of a data dashboard focused on student progression through the manufacturing pathway, implementation of equity-focused career development experiences, advising-focused guidance to help encourage the enrollment of underrepresented students, and continued support for school districts’ College and Career Pathway Endorsements applications. We look forward to sharing additional lessons learned and resources as the project continues.

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