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Custom-made apprenticeship programs between local companies and the City Colleges of Chicago have created a jobs pipeline for associate degree graduates. “We’re relying on City Colleges to provide a core curriculum and the students come in with a core understanding in a specialty area that’s important and that we want to hire for,” said Accenture Chicago Senior Managing Director Jim Coleman. He noted the arrangement helps spot talented candidates who may be overlooked because they are not pursuing four-year degrees or because they may be changing career fields. Ahmad Aladawi, who came to the U.S. from Syria in 2014, is one of those individuals. He started classes for an associate degree at Chicago’s Wright College, then joined Accenture’s apprenticeship program. “It’s allowed me to convert my education knowledge to industry skills,” he said. In 2017, Accenture took the next step by partnering with Aon to create the Chicago Apprentice Network, hoping to transform the broader business community. Executives say the apprenticeships help grow long-term, loyal employees, which reduces turnover. Accenture has expanded its program across the country and helped bring more than a dozen other Chicago companies, including McDonald’s, into the local network. A Harvard Business School study backs up Accenture’s program by arguing that requiring four-year degrees for some jobs actually makes the economy inefficient because the skills and education levels do not mesh. Accenture believes the apprenticeships better fit skill sets to jobs. So far, 11 of the 13 former Accenture Chicago apprentices have continued on in full-time positions.

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