Chicago’s City Colleges and Aon are working together to employ hundreds of youth - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Chicago’s City Colleges and Aon are working together to employ hundreds of youth

Juan Salgado and Bridget Gainer launched an apprentice program at Aon, employing hundreds of Chicago youth.

This profile is part of a series that highlights the work of government, business and community leaders in creating a more equitable and inclusive Chicago region. Each of these stories is featured in "Our Equitable Future"—two dozen recommendations to advance equity MPC released in response to the 2017 Cost of Segregation findings

Chicago’s youth are the future of our city’s workforce. Yet not all of our young people are given pathways to participate.

It’s the problem Aon, a global professional services firm, and the City Colleges of Chicago set out to solve. In 2017, they pioneered a new apprenticeship program that recruits local high school graduates for positions that traditionally have gone to those with bachelor’s degrees. At the end of the two-year program, apprentices earn an associate’s degree, likely receive an offer for a full-time, permanent position, and graduate debt-free.

“At Aon we realized that our talent pool for smart, hardworking and dedicated employees is much, much larger if we go beyond recruiting those with four-year degrees,” said Bridget Gainer, Vice President of Global Public Affairs for Aon and a Commissioner on the Cook County Board. “Working with City Colleges is an important talent strategy, but it’s also an opportunity strategy: Chicago is a city ripe with opportunity and our all our young people should be able to attain it.”  

Aon isn’t the only company implementing these programs and next year more than 400 apprentices will be working and learning and on the pathway to good paying careers.

“These apprentice programs are game changers,” said Juan Salgado, Chancellor of Chicago’s City Colleges. “They open doors to every single neighborhood in our city, and our students enter with a desire and drive to learn, grow and be a part of the workplace.”

It’s a strategy that’s making Chicago’s workforce more inclusive. “I believe everyone in our city, especially our young people, have a vision that’s more inclusive and less segregated than previous generations,” Chancellor Salgado observed. “If we listen to them and organize for their success, we’ll see them succeed at rates never seen before.”

Explore more of the stories in this series.

Who's advancing equity in the Chicago region right now?

This 5-minute video highlights some government, community and business leaders who are already taking action to make our region more equitable and inclusive every day.

MPC thanks CIBC US for generously sponsoring this video.


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For more than 85 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has partnered with communities, businesses, and governments to unleash the greatness of the Chicago region. We believe that every neighborhood has promise, every community should be heard, and every person can thrive. To tackle the toughest urban planning and development challenges, we create collaborations that change perceptions, conversations—and the status quo. Read more about our work »

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