Post-World War II America saw a generation of workers who were unlikely to have gone to college, but rather learned their trades on the job. What they missed in the classroom, they made up for with experience and, in doing so, fueled the greatest period of social mobility and economic growth this country has ever seen.
Two generations later, with rising student debt and low-income students being left behind by the cost of college, we find ourselves looking again to a workforce-training approach that meets the needs of our changing economy and can ready the next generation of American talent.
That approach is apprenticeships. And while apprenticeships have been around for the better part of the last century, for most of this time, the apprenticeship model has been specific to skilled trades. However, the model has expanded to answer the needs of today's changing economy by including fields such as finance and professional services. At the same time we celebrate the 80th anniversary of apprenticeships in the United States, Aon and other professional services firms are forging new ground between education and employment via apprenticeship programs.
Apprenticeships involve training toward a specific professional role and a promise to achieve that role and a career path at the end. The Aon Apprenticeship Program is an innovative and proven model that demonstrates that apprenticeships are not only relevant, but can help create a more diverse, high-skilled, and motivated workforce in the areas of our economy that are growing most quickly − professional services and technology.
Aon has partnered with community colleges to link associate degrees to on-the-job experience. Launched in January 2017, the Aon Apprenticeship Program gives talented students from Chicago’s City Colleges the opportunity to gain experience in fields such as cyber security and risk mitigation. The apprentices − ages 18-24 and high school graduates − receive a competitive salary, full-time benefits, on-the-job training, college tuition, and an associate degree. Once they graduate, they are offered full-time employment and a set career path at Aon.
Aon benefits, too, getting access to a previously untapped talent pipeline. Employers often complain about a lack of skilled workers. At Aon, we have learned that the talent is out there. You just have to look for it in unaccustomed places. Crafting a training program in conjunction with a local community allows you to do it.
We don’t want our smart, capable young people to experience a slowly eroding pathway to success and stability. If we want to talk about creating jobs and a next-generation economy, then we need to commit seriously to bringing the next generation into the picture. Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. At Aon, we’ve learned that, and we’re learning everyday through our apprentices that inclusion and innovation go hand in hand.