Elgin Community College this fall is partnering with local businesses to launch apprenticeship programs in industrial maintenance and nursing assistance.
Officials plan to run a small pilot program with up to five students in each program. A few other suburban community colleges offer apprenticeship programs, which are in demand nationally.
"This initiative is part of ECC's commitment to economic success and workforce development," President David Sam said.
Apprenticeships offer students a way to earn money while getting hands-on training and technical instruction sponsored by an employer or a business-union partnership.
ECC's tuition, other fees, and apprentices' salaries will be covered by the employers.
The college is teaming with Industry Consortium for Advanced Technical Training, the leading apprenticeship program provider in the Midwest, to offer the three-year industrial maintenance apprenticeship program open to local companies.
The Chicago-based consortium was established by the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest and aims to replicate the German apprenticeship model in the U.S. It is supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Labor and The Joyce Foundation.
The program will include classroom education and on-the-job training. Apprentices will work full-time for their employer while earning an associate of applied science degree in integrated systems/maintenance technology from ECC. After graduating, students must work for the employer for at least two years at market wages.
ECC also is working with Clare Oaks retirement community in Bartlett, which provides independent living, assisted living, nursing care and rehabilitation services for seniors, offering the basic nurse assistant apprenticeship.
Current Clare Oaks employees will be admitted into the program this fall, spending 16 weeks in the classroom followed by a six-month apprenticeship. When that is complete, students are guaranteed a job once they acquire a certified nursing assistant license.
"The apprenticeship model works well for employers who are interested in a workforce strategy customized to their business, promotes transfer of knowledge to the next generation of workers and helps build a long-term pipeline of workers," said Kathy Meisinger, ECC director of strategic partnerships and experiential learning.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 87 percent of apprentices in the U.S. are employed after completing training programs, initially earning more than $50,000 yearly on average.
In 2017, more than 190,000 people entered the nationwide apprenticeship system and 64,000 participants graduated. Currently, there are more than 533,000 apprentices nationwide. Illinois had more than 15,186 active apprentices and 431 apprenticeship programs, department of labor statistics show.
Harper College in Palatine is a leader among suburban community colleges offering apprenticeships in banking/finance, precision machining, cyber security, insurance, graphic arts print production, industrial maintenance mechanic, logistics/supply chain management, and sales/retail management. Programs also are offered at College of Lake County in Grayslake (electrician), Oakton Community College in Des Plaines (automotive technology), and Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove (construction technology).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment to grow in many occupations with apprenticeships through 2026.
Studies show employers' return on investment in apprenticeship programs in increased productivity, reduced waste and greater innovation from skilled apprentices, officials said.
"The benefit to the employer is truly they are building their own skilled workforce," Meisinger said. "They are actually customizing the on-the-job (training) portion to their needs. An employer is paying around $30,000 a year, which when they contrast that with how much it costs them to train and retrain employees ... it really is comparable."