National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) 2021 gives us the chance to consider how Registered Apprenticeship programs can help expand access to well-paying job opportunities for people with disabilities that are inclusive and accessible to all.
Marking its seventh year, NAW is a nationwide celebration established by the U.S. Department of Labor that runs from November 15 through November 21. It showcases the impact Registered Apprenticeship programs can have on building the American workforce and reigniting our economy. This celebration also highlights efforts to advance racial, social and gender equity and support underserved communities, including people with disabilities, in apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning.
Apprenticeship programs provide participants with opportunities to learn in-demand skills, earn a competitive wage and work with their mentors to sharpen their skill sets to enter into well-paying jobs in growing industries including clean energy, IT, cybersecurity, healthcare, and more. In fact, apprentices enrolled in an apprenticeship program can increase their lifetime earnings by almost $100,000 to more than $235,000, according to a 2021 report by the Urban Institute.
Supporting people from diverse backgrounds, including those with disabilities, requires all stakeholders involved in recruiting and training apprentices to have the tools and resources needed to foster full inclusion and access for all. Employers must create environments where people of all races, genders, ages, disabilities, sexual identities and religions can feel valued, respected and able to achieve their fullest potential.
What is an Inclusive Apprenticeship?
By design, an inclusive apprenticeship ensures access to career development and work-based learning for countless job seekers who face inequality and come from historically underserved and marginalized groups. These programs strive to meet the needs of all participants and create accessible training and work environments that allow all apprentices to achieve success in their learning, work performance and productivity.
What Does it Mean for a Program to Be Accessible?
Inclusive apprenticeships are apprenticeships designed to be accessible throughout all phases of the program—from the hiring process to training and methods employed by an apprentice’s mentor. For example, an inclusive apprenticeship program should provide an online application process that can ensure streamlined completion by job seekers using assistive software such as a screen reader; it should ensure video conferencing platforms used for classroom and on-the-job training (OJT) can offer real-time captioning; mentors should receive training on how to provide inclusive supports and accommodations.
Working Toward a More Inclusive & Accessible Future
In 2020, we launched the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship (known as PIA). Like PEAT, PIA is also funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy. PIA’s roles include supporting employers and apprenticeship intermediaries to advance and enhance inclusive apprenticeship programs that are accessible to all. Our team has worked closely with PEAT to determine how to shape inclusive apprenticeship programs that prioritize accessibility and help build a more inclusive workplace of the future. To that end, we came together to develop a few tips that can help you shape your own inclusive apprenticeship programs that take into account the accessibility needs of diverse groups of current and future apprentices.
The First Steps to Building an Inclusive and Accessible Apprenticeship Program
- Understand the Value of Inclusive Apprenticeship. Learn about the major advantages of running an inclusive apprenticeship program and hiring people with disabilities as apprentices. These advantages can include reduced training and recruiting costs, lower turnover, and increased innovation. Read PIA’s resource, “The Value of Inclusive Apprenticeship.”
- Create a Culture of Inclusion & Accessibility: Express and share your organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) with your staff and all external stakeholders. Learn more about creating a culture of inclusion and review PEAT’s tips on “Communicating about Accessibility.”
- Find the Right Candidates. Identify potential job candidates with disabilities who may want to apply to your apprenticeship program. Connect these job seekers with support organizations for people with disabilities and apprenticeships, or work with private job-matching companies. Learn more about identifying candidates with disabilities.
- Create an Inclusive and Accessible Hiring Process. Ensure the execution of all steps in the hiring process can fully embrace inclusion and accessibility–from crafting a job description to promoting it for job seekers completing online applications. Review PIA’s tips for fostering full access and inclusion in the recruitment process.
Inclusive apprenticeships that are accessible ensure everyone, including people with disabilities, can fully participate in opportunities that can add lifetime benefits to their careers. Employers who design inclusive programs experience a significant return on investment by tapping valued talent pipelines. If you are ready to take the next steps toward developing an inclusive apprenticeship program, read PIA’s “Designing Inclusive Apprenticeships: A Guide for Recruiting & Training Apprentices with Disabilities.” This guide will walk you through the process and share key resources and information. You can also reach out to the PIA Team by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a guest post from one of PEAT’s partners, Josh Christianson, Project Director for the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship (PIA).