Inclusive Apprenticeships – Building a Pipeline for a Diverse Workforce

This week is National Apprenticeship Week, organized by the Department of Labor, to celebrate and showcase the successes and value of Registered Apprenticeship for rebuilding the economy, advancing equity, and supporting underserved communities. Apprenticeship can offer job seekers a career pathway, where they can earn a competitive wage while gaining on-the-job knowledge and experience, often earning career-advancing credentials. Job seekers with disabilities can bring a wealth of talent to apprenticeship programs, but they can face challenges in finding, applying to, and being accepted into these programs. Inclusive apprenticeship programs enable people with disabilities to gain experience and credentials and can meet employer needs for diverse, talented, and committed employees.

Research in Inclusive Apprenticeships

Several NIDILRR-funded projects are conducting research and development to support inclusive apprenticeships and similar programs for a wide array of job seekers with disabilities.

The Rural Youth Apprenticeship Development Project (PDF) focuses on the development and advancement of vocational rehabilitation (VR) apprenticeships for young people with disabilities living in rural communities. Currently in its second year, the project is developing toolkits with rural-specific resources; promoting partnerships between businesses, workforce development programs, and schools; and working to increase the number of youth apprenticeship programs available in rural communities with high unemployment rates for workers with disabilities.

The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment of Transition-Age Youth with Disabilities is studying the impact of paid internships (similar to apprenticeships, but with key differences) on competitive integrated employment of at-risk high school youth with disabilities. This program, Start on Success, provides early training and paid work experience along with a career and technical education course. Similarly, this center is studying the effects of paid work on the employment outcomes of youth with severe disabilities. This project tests an intervention that connects high school students with paid employment, evaluates the impact of paid work on post-school employment, and examines the pathways these students take into the workforce and the supports that lead to competitive employment.

Explore research indexed in the NARIC collection on apprenticeships and paid internships.

Resources to Build Inclusive Apprenticeship Programs

Employers, vocational rehabilitation and workforce development programs, and schools may want to develop programs, services, and supports for people with disabilities seeking apprenticeship opportunities in established and growing industries. Visit these resources to learn more:

The NIDILRR-funded Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) National Network can assist people seeking these programs in understanding their rights for receiving accommodations to participate, and employers and agencies in understanding their responsibilities under the ADA to provide access to apprenticeship and internship opportunities.

ExploreVR offers a series of toolkits for vocational rehabilitation professionals to learn about evidence-based practices that lead to employment success. This includes the Apprenticeships Toolkit, which guides readers through case studies, promising practices, implementation guides, and additional resources for apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and internship programs. It also covers the benefits of these programs for both employers and employees.

The Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship is funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) at the Department of Labor. They collaborate with employers and apprenticeship intermediaries such as VR to design inclusive apprenticeship programs that meet employer talent needs and enable people with disabilities to gain credentials and skills to succeed in growing industries.

Inclusive Internship: A How-To Guide for Employers (PDF) was published ODEP and features information and resources employers can use when promoting inclusion in the business, organization, or agency. It also details how managing accommodations for interns with disabilities increase their overall productivity and benefits both parties.

Are you a graduate of an inclusive apprenticeship program? Share your story on social media using the hashtags #NAW2021 and #ApprenticeshipWorks!

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