The FINANCIAL — In the latest sign that the push to create apprenticeships in professional services is catching on, Accenture announced it will expand its Chicago apprenticeship program modeled on Aon plc’s highly successful program run in collaboration with the City Colleges of Chicago. U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta praised both companies for bringing apprenticeships to the professional services sector.
The news was announced yesterday during a meeting of corporate CEOs at an annual leadership conference presented by Aon – and attended by Secretary Acosta. The meeting included a discussion about further expanding apprenticeship programs across Chicago, creating new sources of talent for companies by helping students build job-ready skills that are relevant to local employers.
Addressing the group, Secretary Acosta noted that supporting apprenticeships was a major policy objective of the current administration and praised Aon and Accenture for bringing apprenticeships to the professional services sector. “A key part of the President’s apprenticeship initiative is this: we will not micromanage apprenticeships from Washington. One size does not fit all,” Acosta said. “The Department of Labor will work with trade and industry groups, companies, and others to help them design apprenticeship programs appropriate for their industry.”
The skilled trades have long used apprenticeships to grow their talent, but Aon was among the first large financial corporations to adapt the model to its sector. Aon partnered with City Colleges of Chicago and Harper College to hire 26 students – many of them graduates of Chicago Public Schools – paying them to work full-time while studying business, writing, communications and finance. When the apprentices complete the program, Aon hires them for permanent, full-time positions, according to Accenture.
“Aon’s apprenticeship program has brought young men and women from across Chicagoland to work and learn at our firm,” said Greg Case, Aon’s president & CEO. “This is about Aon getting access to the best talent Chicago has to offer. These students are forging a new path for us in bringing diverse and exciting new talent to the company, and they have already had a remarkable impact.”
Accenture, another early leader in adapting the apprenticeship model, is expanding its Chicago apprenticeship program to 25 apprenticeships per year. The program builds upon the company’s success as a lead partner in the City of Chicago’s College to Careers Initiative. Since 2016, Accenture has been working with Wilbur Wright College, which houses the City Colleges’ Center for Excellence for IT, to shape the college’s IT and cyber security curricula while helping students build job-ready skills and gain on-the-job experience; the ultimate goal is to help the students secure full-time employment with Accenture.
“People are our country’s greatest source of competitive advantage,” said Julie Sweet, Accenture’s CEO for North America. “At a time when employers are facing a prolonged skills gap, particularly in the technology fields, reskilling is essential to driving innovation, which will lead to the next wave of competitiveness and growth. We believe that apprenticeship programs, particularly at the local level, are critical to igniting greater interest in technology and ultimately building a pipeline to help address the skills gap in the U.S.”
Bridget Gainer, VP of Global Public Affairs for Aon and architect of its program, said, “In a rapidly changing world with the cost of four-year college out of reach for many, too many of Chicago’s young people are being left behind because they lack employable skills. At the same time, Aon needs access to new, previously untapped pools of talent. We’re excited to bring what we’ve learned in our own program to a broader group of Chicago employers.”