New apprenticeship programs awarded $2.5 million federal grant

September 11, 2015

The White House announced this week that Harper College will receive $2.5 million to support Apprenticeships on Demand, a new initiative at the Palatine, Ill., community college that aims to integrate technical instruction and on-the-job learning to train workers in high-growth and high-demand fields including insurance, IT and manufacturing.

Especially innovative is the partnership between Harper and Zurich, which recently teamed to launch a first-of-its-kind apprenticeship program for the insurance industry. The program, which will foster the next generation of underwriters and claims professionals, will emulate the longtime successful dual education model in Switzerland. The first cohort begins in January.

“It's great to see an important program gain the financial support necessary to make it a success," said Brian Little, head of Human Resources at Zurich North America. “We're looking forward to continuing our work with Harper College to inspire young people to take on new challenges and develop core business competencies in the insurance industry.”

Apprentices will be paid employees of Zurich and earn academic credit and industry certifications along the way. The Swiss company, whose pool of customers spans more than 170 countries, is committed to having 100 apprentices in the program by 2020.

Zurich’s aim is to create a channel that bolsters the supply of talent entering the insurance field. After the pilot program with Harper is completed, the company hopes to scale up the program industry-wide.

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded a total of $175 million to 46 applicants through its American Apprenticeship grant competition, the single largest investment to date to expand U.S. apprenticeships. Recipients have pledged to train and hire more than 34,000 new apprentices over the next five years. According to the White House, apprenticeships are a proven training strategy for workers to learn the skills that employers need for American businesses to grow and thrive in a competitive global environment.

Harper was the only college in Illinois to be selected.

Maria Coons, Vice President of Workforce and Strategic Alliances at Harper, said more apprenticeships will be established over time. An IT security apprenticeship, for instance, is being developed as part of the grant. The funding will also help fund the college’s new manufacturing apprenticeship program.

“These apprenticeships are going to become more common,” Coons said. “European countries do it and have seen a lot of success. An apprenticeship is the ultimate ‘earn and learn’ experience.”

Harper’s efforts will benefit from another recipient of the federal grant competition. The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association Education Foundation was awarded $3.9 million to fund the Illinois Advanced Apprenticeship Consortium, which includes the German American Chamber of Commerce Midwest and Harper College.

Applications are currently being accepted for the insurance apprenticeship. Learn more at harpercollege.edu.

Media contact: Kim Pohl, Media Relations Manager, 847.925.6159