Organizations nationwide are struggling to find qualified job candidates. What can human resource professionals do to attract viable candidates into the workforce impacted by turnovers and high job vacancy rates?

Some Houston area companies believe eliminating college degree requirements is an answer. Global professional services firm Aon has partnered with Houston Community College to create a pathway for candidates without a traditional four-year degree. 

Aon works with local community colleges nationwide to build a curriculum that gives apprentices the opportunity to complete their studies and apply their knowledge through real-world experiences.

Aon created the concept in Chicago in 2017 to tap into a broader talent pool. After a successful launch, the program expanded across six different cities including Houston to begin its inaugural two-year associate degree apprenticeship.

“We sit down with [HCC] and tell them the type of skillset that we’re trying to develop,” said Charles Philpott, president of Aon US. “We are working with the school, within our office, and the students in best understanding what they will need to be successful.”

Students spend 40 hours per week split between work and classes to complete their associate degree. Aon covers salary, benefits, tuition, fees and books. Last year, the program accepted its first cohort of 10 students.

Brooklynn Glover, Aon apprentice.

Brooklynn Glover, 24, is an apprentice at HCC earning a degree in business management. Before entering into the program, she had a difficult time at her previous college in Indiana, eventually lost her scholarship and was no longer able to complete her final year. She moved to Texas with her mother. Her aunt, and Aon employee, told her about the apprenticeship program. 

“A lot of people aren’t fit for college and that’s perfectly fine. But a lot of the time apprenticeship options aren’t even present for them,” said Glover. “Especially for underrepresented people…who have the least advantage, it helps us get our foot forward and even put us a little bit ahead. It helps us to avoid being set back by having to pay for loans and other bills geared toward school.”

Glover said within her first year she has seen growth and felt a strong sense of community within the apprenticeship, a goal many companies are working to implement in order to create a thriving and sustainable work environment.

“I felt really comfortable being a Black person…being a woman…being gay,” she said. “They do a good job of just meeting us where we are.”

To learn more about the program visit the Aon website.

Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...