A consulting company recruiting Philly apprentices is offering $44K plus free community college

For the third year in a row, a global professional services business wants to hire and train high school graduates in Philadelphia.

Students working with the global consulting business Aon through the Philadelphia Apprentice Network and Summer Search Philadelphia pose for a photo.

Students working with the global consulting business Aon through the Philadelphia Apprentice Network and Summer Search Philadelphia pose for a photo. (Courtesy of Aon and the Philadelphia Apprentice Network)

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Philadelphia high school graduates could step into a full-time job working in a corporate office and earn a free associate’s degree under a two-year apprenticeship program that’s recruiting now.

That’s what Naralin Dilone did after graduating from the Kensington neighborhood Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter School in June 2021.

At the time, she held down two jobs – as a certified eyelash technician and door assembly line worker — but wasn’t sure about her future. She loved working with her cosmetology clients but wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of a career in a warehouse.

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“I was like, I don’t see myself here. I want to have a family. To have a house,” Dilone said. “To succeed.”

Naralin Dilone poses for a photo
Philadelphia high school graduate Naralin Dilone earned an associates degree on the job during a corporate apprenticeship program through Chicago-based professional services business Aon. (Courtesy of Aon and the Philadelphia Apprentice Network)

She considered becoming a nurse practitioner and joined a mentoring program known as Summer Search Philadelphia. Then, a mentor called her and suggested she apply for a paid apprenticeship in a corporate office — something she’d never done before.

“I was indecisive about going to [college],” Dilone said, concerned about taking on debt.

But this apprenticeship was not only paid but also offered a full-ride scholarship to community college.

So she took the job in the local office of Chicago-based Aon. It’s a global professional services business that consults for the insurance, health care and retirement industries.

It was a good decision for Dilone, who is now a mother, homeowner and works for Aon in its health and benefits department after earning her associates degree and graduating from the apprenticeship program.

Now Aon is looking to recruit more youth for these jobs in collaboration with the Philadelphia Apprentice Network and Summer Search.

Students can earn degrees from the Community College of Philadelphia or Montgomery County Community College while earning $44,000 a year — which translates to roughly $21 an hour plus health insurance, paid time off and retirement benefits. The cost of college, up to $7,000 in books and tuition is paid for by the company.

The job requires students to work in person inside its corporate offices for 40 hours a week while attending community college classes and maintaining passing grades. The company will pay apprentices while they are in class but not while studying or doing homework. The application deadline is March 1 for the program which begins on August 1.

Eligible individuals must have a high school diploma, its equivalent or alternatively track to graduate high school by June.

Anyone who already holds a bachelor’s degree or requires work visas are not eligible.

It pays more than most entry-level jobs. The median income for Philadelphia household breadwinners under the age of 25 was $35,535, according to the U.S. Census estimate in 2022. Citywide, there are roughly 21,000 individuals who are heads of households and under the age of 25 years old earning less than $40,000 a year.

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The program was piloted in Chicago about six years ago and expanded to Philadelphia in 2021. Since then, the program has brought on 30 apprentices in Philadelphia.

The cohorts were started during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and worked remotely at first when the company dropped a college degree as its minimum requirement for the job.

“At the end of the day we work with clients around those issues of risk, health and retirement. So we’re basically in the problem-solving business,” said Marc Armstrong, managing principal of Risk Services at Aon. “[To do that] You need diversity of thought, gender, age and background. Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not.”

Armstrong hopes that more businesses borrow Aon’s model for apprenticeship in white-collar jobs.

After apprentices finish the program, they can get a promotion and pay bump.

That’s what happened to Khalil Bullock, who graduated with an associate’s degree from Montgomery County Community College and is now a people strategy analyst with Aon after his apprenticeship.

Bullock had worked in retail jobs after high school for five years but felt stuck.

“It didn’t feel like I had much growth potential, I felt very stagnant and like I had very limited options,” he said about long hours in retail.

Khalil Bullock poses for a photo
Khalil Bullock graduated with an associates degree from Montgomery County Community College now works for a global consulting business Aon after doing a corporate apprenticeship program. (Courtesy of Aon and the Philadelphia Apprentice Network)

He was a first-generation college student and was unfamiliar with what it would take to succeed in an office job.

“Joining the corporate space when you have no prior experience was incredibly scary,” he said. “But I found a sense of fulfillment that I didn’t have before working long hours [in retail].”

For 21-year-old Jared Jagielski, who attends the Community College of Philadelphia, he appreciates the flexibility of taking a night class after his Aon apprenticeship is done for the day. On Fridays, when he’s not in the office, he catches up on college assignments.

Back in August 2022, Jagielski was working as a cashier at a grocery store.

He’s now working towards an associate’s degree in business and earning his Property and Casualty Insurance License, which requires an exam. He gained some confidence as a professional along the way.

“I’ve always been a reserved person and honestly working with my team has given me a sense of direction that I did not see before working in retail,” he said. “Sometimes you work as hard but you don’t end up doing anything. Now I can actually see the fruit of my labor.”

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