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Dohmen’s $1.6M Helps i.c. stars Expand to Milwaukee, Other Cities

A Chicago-based organization that teaches technology skills to young adults who have overcome adversity says it plans to begin holding programs in Milwaukee.

Inner-City Computer Stars Foundation, or i.c. stars, says it plans to team up with companies in Milwaukee to place hundreds of young adults in jobs that require knowledge of computing concepts and expertise in software development.

The Dohmen Company, a Milwaukee-based conglomerate of healthcare businesses, says it has committed to provide i.c. stars with $1.6 million in funding over an unspecified time period. It will use some of the money to run programs in Milwaukee, and “will be kick-starting a campaign to scale its organization nationally,” according to a news release.

“This is more than a sponsorship—this is an investment in our community,” Dohmen CEO Cynthia LaConte says in the release. “Supporting this organization is the perfect opportunity for our business leaders to do well by doing good. This program creates equitable access to opportunity through technology training and placement at a time when Milwaukee needs both.”

The nonprofit organization launched in Chicago in 1999, and two years ago i.c. stars opened an affiliate in Columbus, OH. In its announcement about Dohmen’s commitment to sponsor i.c. stars programs in Milwaukee, the organization didn’t name the other cities it’s targeting as part of its national expansion.

One goal of i.c. stars programs is closing the wage gap for low-income adults. The organization provides people who are accepted into a program with four-month paid internships, during which students learn the ins and outs of technologies and software programs widely used in the business world today. In the past, interns have built mobile apps and other software tools for Accenture (NYSE: ACN) and other companies, i.c. stars says.

The Chicago organization also seeks to equip its students with business acumen and leadership skills, in part by providing them with 20 months of coaching after they’ve completed an internship.

To date, i.c. stars says its programs have graduated more than 400 students, and that its job placement rate is 90 percent. The organization’s alumni work in tech jobs at companies like Presence Health, US Foods (NYSE: USFD), and EShots, i.c. stars says.

The organization plans to run its Milwaukee programs, which will each enroll 20 students, from Red Arrow Labs, a health IT-focused Dohmen subsidiary with offices in the city’s Third Ward district.

On its website, i.c. stars says program participants must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. The program also requires students to have at least six months of full-time work experience to be eligible. Additionally, students “must qualify according to our income guidelines” and they are “screened for an ability to overcome adversity,” i.c. stars says.

“i.c.stars unlocks the potential of the talented young people in our underserved communities who are looking for their opportunity,” Sandee Kastrul, co-founder and president of the organization, says in a prepared statement. “Our country has half a million unfilled tech jobs awaiting these future leaders. With partners like The Dohmen Company, we can train and place promising students into well-paid careers.”

Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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