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Reps Push Tax Credits for Apprentice Programs

Crain's Chicago Business

A bipartisan pair of Illinois congressmen are moving to create a sizable new tax credit for companies that hire students for work-study apprenticeship programs.

In an appearance at Aon today, Reps. Dan Lipinski, D-Chicago, and Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, will unveil a bill that would give qualified employers a credit of up to $1,500 a year for two years for each apprentice.

The proposal is modeled on a program at Aon that Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, who is Aon's vice president of global affairs, helped set up.

"I was at Aon a couple of weeks ago and met some of the apprentices that come out of my district, and I was impressed," Lipinski told me. More companies might be lured to establish such European-style training programs if they had a financial incentive, he said.

Gainer said 26 students are on the program now, with a second wave of 26 set to arrive in January. All work Monday through Thursday, but then attend Harold Washington College, where they're obtaining associate degrees in business-related fields, she said.

"At the end of the year, they have a degree and a place in the company, and hopefully it will be a permanent place."

Gainer said participants were recruited through Harold Washington and groups such as the Urban League. Of the 26, 20 are Latino or African-American, and half are women, she said, all making around $30,000 a year, plus full fringe benefits and free tuition.

Entry-level staffers in the jobs—a mix of human relations, sales, tech and claims positions—usually get $45,000 to $60,000 a year, Gainer said. But they have four-year degrees and work five days a week, not four. The expectation is that the apprentices will move up to that level after they complete the program, she said.

An identical companion bill is being filed in the Senate by Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Tim Scott, R-S.C.

Lipinski said he and Davis propose to pay for the measure's costs by moving most federal documents online rather than requiring physical printing. He said he is hopeful of passing the bill on its own or adding into possible wider tax reform.