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The Apprenticeship Program that Stabilized My Life: Young Adults Experiences in Apprenticeships and Workforce Training Programs


2021 03 27 Salvador Delgado3110


My educational and professional journey has been challenging and unorthodox. Thankfully, an apprenticeship opportunity launched me into an economically secure career. 

My first attempt at an undergraduate education did not go as planned, and it ended with me being dismissed from the university I attended, homeless and struggling to stay afloat. This first experience with higher education went this way due to financial instability and difficulty managing my mental health.  

Eventually, I returned to Chicago and enrolled at Harold Washington College with the City Colleges of Chicago, and my trajectory began to shift. As a young adult who has to work and attend school, Harold Washington College had very flexible class times and support to work full-time simultaneously. 

While working at a civil litigation law firm as a legal assistant, I came across a fantastic opportunity through the career services department for a paralegal apprenticeship. The apprenticeship program was through a partnership between the City Colleges of Chicago, One Million Degrees (OMD), and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. The opportunity seemed too good to be true. They paid up to $40,000 a year for part-time work while providing me immense paralegal training, benefits, and time off. This apprenticeship was a different experience for me compared to schooling and other jobs because I could apply my coursework and classroom education to my work product and on-the-job training while earning a livable wage.

In addition, this program came with several supports as they reimbursed my tuition with the successful completion of my degree. I was fortunate enough to acquire the apprenticeship and be placed at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, where I gained precious experience in legal compliance, affordable housing, capital markets, and finance fields. Aside from the fantastic career training in my field, I received mentorship, advocacy, and professional development through OMD weekly check-ins and monthly training. 

With this opportunity, I was not only able to launch my career as a legal professional, but all of the benefits allowed me to stabilize my life. I made enough to secure safe and reliable housing finally. I had access to health benefits to seek physical and mental health care. I could afford to create an emergency savings fund for the first time.  

I want to share my story to continue advocating for workforce training and apprenticeship programs. I urge young adults everywhere to consider an apprenticeship program because you can gain meaningful work experience while exploring a new field and have support systems to help you succeed. This is very important to me because apprenticeships give professional and educational options and flexibility to many marginalized communities and provide a pathway to socio-economic growth. I want to urge our representatives and lawmakers to continue to allocate more funding to organizations and institutions that have created such opportunities and to find further ways to make apprenticeships accessible for everyone across all industries.

Salvador Delgado is a queer, first-generation Mexican American student and professional. He is a student at the University of Illinois Chicago studying Public Policy and employed at ONE Northside as a community organizing intern.