May 2024

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A Note From Leadership - Dr. Lazaro Lopez

Apprenticeship Youth Workgroup

Dr. Lazaro Lopez Headshot

There’s no overstating the importance and value of apprenticeships in preparing the next generation for available, well-paying jobs and in serving employers’ workforce needs by equipping them with the skills that are sought out by a wide range of employers. 


The first-ever Youth Apprenticeship Week (YAW), celebrated May 5-11, put a spotlight on the benefits of registered apprenticeship program opportunities for youths from ages 16 to 24. Apprenticeships offer multi-faceted value, allowing young people to earn competitive wages while receiving relevant training and experience to start their careers. In addition, apprenticeships often include the opportunity to earn professional credentials through training or college credit along the way. Or both. 


In celebration of YAW, High School District 214 in the Northwest suburbs recognized 44 youth apprentices who had completed their experience. The district hosted visitors from Montgomery County School District in Maryland seeking to advance their program, and members of the Apprenticeship Illinois working group facilitated and participated in several webinars.  


One sterling example of a successful youth apprenticeship is a John Hersey High School student Emily Sohn, a Manufacturing Apprentice with DEMGY, a plastic injection molding manufacturer in Elk Grove Village. As a featured speaker at a Youth Apprenticeship Summit in Washington D.C., hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor, Emily shared how she took Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and manufacturing courses, setting the stage for an apprenticeship. She worked on all aspects of the operation, including earning a forklift operator license (when she turned 18) and researching and implementing a new lighting design. The best part? She has been hired full-time at DEMGY after graduation while she continues her studies. Because of her success, she also opened the door at DEMGY for another apprentice hire next year. For Emily, the apprenticeship not only provided training but helped bring her career goals into much sharper focus. 


Emily’s is one of many stories of success, none of which develop by accident or haphazardly. Illinois Youth Apprenticeship Framework clearly spells out apprenticeship requirements and expectations. Students participate in extensive interviews to ensure that prospective apprentices fully understand and buy into the time and level of commitment required for success.  

National Youth Apprenticeship Week Logo

During a highly informative YAW webinar, one of the state’s key proponents of hosting apprentices listed the benefits to employers, including training young people in your company’s culture and boosting the ability to retain well-trained employees who understand the culture. Building on that theme was Jennifer Serino, who works with high schools and community colleges as Executive Director of the Workforce Development Department at Lake County. She emphasized simplifying connections among employers, schools, and students to focus on how apprenticeship connections can best serve all parties. One statistic for employers who might still doubt the value of apprenticeships. About 80 percent of high school graduates will live and work in their home community. This means chances are high that the apprentices employers train will contribute to the local economy.  


This inaugural DOL Youth Apprenticeship Week is only the beginning. Illinois has virtually limitless opportunities to grow a fully developed apprenticeship network that involves high schools but is most firmly rooted in the state’s community college system. With a target age of 16 to 21, partnerships among high schools, community colleges, and workforce development centers will show enormous community benefits for all.

Apprentice Ambassadors Success Story

Aaron Henry Headshot

Aaron Henry | IT Apprentice Zurich

Aaron Henry, who is one of the Apprentice Ambassadors for the Apprenticeship Illinois Committee (AIC), and an IT Apprentice at Zurich has been one of the “firsts” of apprenticeship in Illinois, as a member of the first Apprentice Ambassador cohort with the Apprenticeship Illinois Committee, and one of the first to showcase the work of Zurich’s apprenticeship program to those across the state. 

Apprenticeship has offered a brand-new set of options for Aaron. Entering IT and seeing the wide range of opportunities to develop his career has completely shifted his initial expectations for his life. Joining the apprenticeship program with Zurich has offered new job stability, wage growth, and educational opportunities that were not accessible before. 

Aaron enjoys taking points to encourage and connect with his fellow Ambassadors to spread awareness about apprenticeship in their own neighborhoods.

Aaron has become one of the main “faces” of apprenticeship in Illinois through opportunities with radio interviews, the Chicago Apprenticeship Network, Zurich’s Apprentice Alumni Advisor program, the Apprenticeship Illinois Committee, and other community organizations. Aaron exudes excitement for others to share in the opportunities he’s been given that is infectious, and he is honored to have an impact on the future of others and doesn’t take it for granted. 

Zurich Logo

Aaron plans to apply to become an Apprentice Alumni Advisor (AAA) for Zurich and mentor a 1st-year apprentice like he was mentored upon joining Zurich, which will be his 4th year with the company. 22 different AAAs across the company help mentor new apprentices, in addition to the other support from supervisory staff. The level of personalization, attention, and care from Aaron’s team has pushed him to excel in his role. 

Illinois Apprentice Ambassador Aaron Henry and his fellow apprentices have promoted Apprenticeship on Zurich's social media channels, helping others understand the importance of creating pathways to sustainable careers. "It is so gratifying to see the growth of our apprentices from the time they arrive to the day they graduate, which Aaron and over 50 other Zurich apprentices will do in September. Many of our managers and other team members attend the celebration, which shows how much our workforce values this program." -Jillian Walsh VP, Director of Apprenticeship, Zurich 

Youth Apprenticeship Week Event

Chef de Partie Apprenticeship UHCHI Cohort 13 Brunch

Student serving at UHCHI Banquet
Breakfast Food at UHCHI Banquet
Sheryl & Alan at UHCHI Banquet
Apprentices at UHCHI Banquet
Banquet Event at UHCHI

UNITE HERE Chicago Hospitality Institute (UHCHI) hosted a Cohort 13 brunch to celebrate the nation's inaugural Youth Apprenticeship Week (YAW). Chandler Meyer- Brown, Director of Career and Technical Education, and Armando Rodriguez, Deputy Chief of College and Careers with Chicago Public Schools, Apprentice Ambassador Alan Rodriguez, UHCHI apprentices, and Sheryl Morris - Executive Director UHCHI and Apprentice Ambassador Workgroup Lead for the Apprenticeship Illinois Committee, Illinois Workforce Innovation Board, were in attendance. The event also hosted community-based organizations such as St. Sabina Employment Resource Center, E&ES, Lawrence Hall, Youth Job Center, and Westside Health Authority.

UHCHI apprentices received lived experience with event prep, service, public speaking, and professional presence!

Youth Apprenticeship Week Webinars

Watch Now!

National Youth Apprenticeship Week Logo

Yes! It's Possible To Incorporate Youth Into Your Talent Pipeline - May 9, 2024 8 AM - 9 AM CST.

YAW - Yes! It's Possible To Incorporate Youth Into Your Talent Pipeline - May 9, 2024
National Youth Apprenticeship Week Logo

Youth Apprenticeship Models in Underserved Populations - May 15, 2024 9 AM - 10 AM CST.

Youth Apprenticeship Models in Underserved Populations

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