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Apprenticeships open career door for any age, any background

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Nov 05, 2020

According to the U.S. Department of Labor an apprenticeship is a proven approach for preparing workers for jobs and 91 percent of apprentices are retained by their program employers. While the apprenticeship program at College of Lake County (CLC) only officially began this past August, it is already showing signs of success. 

“Students earn and learn through the apprenticeship program,” said CLC apprenticeship manager Dan Ortego. “Students attend classes and work at the same time.” 

Ideally students are learning the concepts in the classroom one to two days per week while practicing in a real job three to four days per week. In addition to getting a paycheck from their apprenticeship employer, students also have all their school costs covered such as tuition, fees and books. 

Aspiring apprentices must be 18 years of age or older with a high school diploma or GED and be eligible to work in the U.S. After meeting the basic criteria, applicants then choose one of six programs to apply for: automotive, business, healthcare, horticulture, manufacturing or information technology. Once accepted, it’s time for interviews. 

“They interview with the company and then the company selects the apprentices,” said Ortego. “They’re looking for someone who is going to make a commitment and potentially take a leadership. These companies are able to train their apprentices like homegrown talent.”  

Photo of Darrell BergDarrell Berg, one of CLC’s first apprentices, can attest to his experience. “I feel forever grateful I was able to find this opportunity.”  

Berg (right) began his career in the U.S. Navy before getting a computer programming degree and working in the computer field for 15 years. However, for the past decade or so he’s lived a semi-retired life. At 59-years-old, he wanted to make a change. 

“I never thought I’d come back to corporate America and by the time I realized I might have to, it would have been difficult to follow the traditional path,” said Berg. “This apprenticeship program is the answer. You’ll get a lot of people talking like ‘yeah tell kids about it,’ but it’s not just kids. It’s for everyone.” 

Berg applied for the business program and was hired on at Aon, an international insurance company with offices in Lincolnshire. He expects to graduate from the program this summer and continue working with the company as long as he can. 

“It’s truly a collaboration with the college and helping the economic well-being of the county by identifying the needs of employers,” said Ortego.  

CLC’s program has an expanding capacity and right now Ortego says the only limiting factor, besides current health concerns, is the number of participating employers. He asks anyone who has interest in joining the program as an apprentice or an employer to reach out online at

About College of Lake County: 

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.