Apprenticeships transform lives of unconventional job seekers

A group that includes some of Chicago’s biggest private employers is expanding an innovative apprenticeship program that trains unconventional job applicants that the companies might not have hired in the past.

After working what he called "dead-end jobs," Ed Richardson said his life was transformed when he learned insurance giant AON had designed a two-year apprenticeship for people like him.

“You do not need any experience, which I did not have, or a degree, which I didn't have either,” said Richardson. “And they would pay for your schooling, which I plan to continue.”

“It's a wonderful idea because it offers up the opportunity to people who would not normally find the opportunity and gain growth,” said Triniti Henry, who is now working fulltime for AON.

Henry and Richardson both graduated from AON apprenticeships into full-time jobs. Other corporate giants in the Chicago Apprentice Network, including McDonald’s, Walgreens, Accenture, and the Rush University Medical Center, now plan to recruit hundreds of additional apprentices. 

“It's a way to potentially create, meaningfully create a new pipeline of talent that really defines who gets access to companies, both big, medium and small,” said Gregory Case, AON Chief Executive Officer.

Mayor Emanuel said the apprenticeship program relies heavily on collaboration between these employers and the city colleges of Chicago so that they are teaching specific skills employers want applicants to have.