Kickoff featuring First Lady Jill Biden and additional events across the U.S. bring new attention to a career pathway introduced at Zurich North America in 2016.
With First Lady Jill Biden kicking it off in Chicago, the 8th annual National Apprenticeship Week was bigger than it’s ever been.
On Nov. 14, Zurich North America CEO Kristof Terryn and Zurich apprentice alumni joined Dr. Jill Biden and others onstage at the headliner event hosted by the Chicago Apprentice Network’s founders (Zurich, Aon and Accenture) and Business Roundtable at Aon Center in Chicago. Hundreds of other events took place throughout National Apprenticeship Week, which was created by the Department of Labor in 2015. In addition to Chicago, Zurich apprentices, alumni and leaders shared their experiences and insights at events in New York, Houston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., where Zurich participated in an event at the Swiss Embassy.
“It’s fantastic to be a part of the growth of National Apprenticeship Week,” Terryn said. “The Chicago Apprentice Network, which Zurich, Aon and Accenture co-founded in 2017, has led a charge to expand corporate apprenticeship programs, which help diversify the workforce by creating more inclusive pathways into great careers. I’m extremely passionate about what we do at Zurich on the apprenticeship side.”
Zurich’s earn-and-learn program was the first insurance apprenticeship to be registered with the U.S. Department of Labor. Since 2016, Zurich has expanded its two-year associate degree program from its Chicagoland headquarters to New York in 2020 and to more than 16 states in 2022. This year Zurich also added a bachelor’s degree apprenticeship pathway.
“Apprenticeship is one of the best ways to bring in diversity and give people careers that actually last,” Terryn said. “When I look at our retention of apprentices, they are making really good careers here. At our fall picnic, I was sitting with some apprentices and there were three siblings among them. The whole family essentially signed up.”
Aon, Accenture and Zurich have been working together since 2017 to help expand apprenticeship. More recently they’ve collaborated to extend the network model to additional cities, sharing best practices and helping to set up infrastructure that many other companies can use. For its 2020 expansion to New York City, for example, Zurich helped the Borough of Manhattan Community College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, to create its first degree-based apprenticeship curriculum. Other companies including Aon, AIG and Trans Re are now working with BMCC too for their apprenticeship curriculum.
“Apprenticeships build a stronger, more resilient workforce because they allow entrants who previously were restricted from being part of a career to now have access to wonderful careers in many different industries,” said Al Crook, Head of HR Business Partners and Apprenticeship at Zurich. “I would tell someone or a company interested in apprenticeship to start now.”
On opening day of National Apprenticeship Week, Dr. Biden stopped at Rolling Meadows High School, the alma mater of some of Zurich’s apprentices, to learn about the school’s Career Pathways program. Then she took the stage at the Chicago Apprentice Network event with U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and a selection of apprentices, alumni and leaders from Zurich, Aon and Accenture.
The event included an executive roundtable with leaders from JPMorgan Chase & Co., McDonald’s, United Airlines, Walgreens Boots Alliance and others who have added apprenticeships. Zurich apprentice alumni Kareena Deol, Brandon Quarles and Jose Gonzalez had the opportunity to meet the first lady.
The same day in Washington, D.C., Zurich apprentice alumna Jae Arias, who is based in New York, and Chavonne Hudson, who is program lead for Zurich’s New York apprentices, boarded a train to Washington, D.C., to participate in a Women in Apprenticeship Event at the Swiss Embassy. Apprenticeships have long been a popular and respected career path in Switzerland, and the Swiss take pride in the fact that Zurich North America’s Apprenticeship Program successfully drew from the Swiss tradition.
The embassy event included representatives of the Swiss and Austrian Embassies as well as a foreign minister for Liechtenstein, and leaders and apprentices from other companies that have U.S. apprenticeship programs.
The next day Arias and Hudson visited Capitol Hill to speak at a Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus briefing about the value of expanding registered apprenticeships for women and in emerging industries. Prior to the briefing, Arias and Hudson, accompanied by Tom Santos from Zurich’s Government and Regulatory Relations team, met with U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), whose congressional district includes Zurich North America’s Schaumburg headquarters.
On Wednesday, Zurich apprentice graduate Angel Rosario spoke at the New York Jobs CEO Council apprenticeship event at Aon in Manhattan along with LeAnne McCory, CEO of Greater New York Region for Aon; Subba Ramaswamy, Managing Director of Accenture; Kiersten Barnet, Executive Director of the New York Jobs CEO Council; Lauren Andersen, University Provost for Career & Industry Partnerships at CUNY; Grace Kim, Program Manager of Apprenticeships at Google; and Barb Chang, Executive Director at CareerWise. About 10 Zurich apprentice alumni, managers and current apprentices attended the event at Aon’s Manhattan office, as did Abby Jo Sigal, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Talent & Workforce Development.
The New York Jobs CEO Council is a nonprofit membership intermediary that works to scale sustainable, market-driven workforce development solutions. It announced that it will lead New York’s Jobs Council Apprentice Network, with the goal of uniting the city’s employers with established corporate apprenticeship programs such as those at Accenture, Aon and Zurich. The Jobs Council Apprentice Network will help to connect employers and educational institutions, such as CUNY schools, to increase awareness and adoption of corporate apprenticeship programs.
Philadelphia and Houston
One of the newer apprentice networks is in Philadelphia, where Zurich Underwriting Support Manager Kaitlin Konzerowsky spoke on a panel during National Apprenticeship Week. After the panel, many attendees wanted to know more about how Zurich apprentices rotate through different business areas during the two-year program, enabling them to learn about the wide range of opportunities available to them at Zurich.
Another newer network is the Houston Apprentice Network. Zurich’s Underwriting Account Service Manager Betty Neal and Houston apprentices Ashley Mitchell and Erin Hanlon participated in network events there during National Apprenticeship Week, including one at Houston Community College.
Zurich also hosted a virtual National Apprenticeship Week Summit where alumni and leaders of the Zurich program provided information and key dates with high school counselors and apprenticeship candidates.
Interested in learning more about Zurich apprenticeship opportunities? We’re hiring now! Please visit https://www.zurichna.com/careers/apprentices