Harper's partnership with Zurich wins ICCCA Innovation Award

Dean Rebecca Lake receives the award from ICCCA President-elect Michael BoydHarper College’s partnership with Zurich North America offering registered apprenticeships has been awarded a 2018 Illinois Council of Community College Administrators Innovation Award.

It’s the kind of program that didn’t exist in the U.S. until recently.

Global insurer Zurich had long enjoyed success abroad with the Swiss apprenticeship system. To better establish a pipeline of talent here, Zurich North America – whose headquarters are in Schaumburg – worked with Harper to develop a training model that couples workplace experience with relevant coursework.

The two-year program, which launched in 2015 and is registered with the Department of Labor, aims to foster the next generation of underwriters, claims adjusters and other insurance professionals. It’s an “earn and learn” model in which apprentices are hired by Zurich, earn a salary and simultaneously earn their degree.

The program is on track to meet Zurich’s commitment to train at least 100 apprentices by 2020. The first cohort of 19 apprentices graduated from Harper in December 2017 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in business administration.

Harper College now offers eight registered apprenticeship programs – many of them in non-traditional fields – including cybersecurity, banking and finance, CNC precision machining, and retail and sales management. In October, nearly 100 community and technical colleges from across the country came to campus to get a glimpse into how Harper makes it all work.

Rebecca Lake, Dean of Workforce and Economic Development, accepted the award at the ICCCA conference in East Peoria.