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Twin Cities businesses unite in drive to hire 1,000 apprentices, chiefly in tech

  • 4 mths ago

Randall Darden, a four-year IT professional working for Accenture in Minneapolis, didn't take the often-required step of getting a four-year degree.

Darden, 32, a Minneapolis Washburn High graduate, ran into financial difficulties and dropped out of college, supporting himself with low-wage retail and janitorial jobs.

Yet, he had interest and aptitude for technology. He jumped at the chance to join the business consulting firm as part of an apprentice program Accenture started in 2016.

"The apprenticeship changed my life," Darden said last week. "I'm making a good living. I have plans to finish my computer science degree. I was surrounded here by folks who helped me grow in my career. It's been great for me and my family. I've earned promotions."

Christy Sovereign, who leads Accenture in the Twin Cities, plans to expand the number of apprentices from 12 to 100, equal to that of the Chicago headquarters.

Accenture first scaled up the apprenticeship program in concert with several other Chicago-area businesses as a promising way to diversify their workforces with bright employees who didn't make it through college.

"The Chicago story for us busted this bias that you need a four-year degree to do well at Accenture," Sovereign said last week. "We're also seeing that in Minneapolis. We want a workforce that's representative of the population at large. And two-thirds of the apprentices are from underrepresented groups."

Locally, Accenture has joined with Chicago-based insurer Aon, and Greater MSP, the Twin Cities business-development agency to launch the Minnesota Apprenticeship Network, with an initial goal of 1,000 apprentices.

"The apprenticeship program will create new opportunities and professional networks for both apprentices and participating employers," Greg Case, CEO of Aon, said in a statement this month.

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