Join us! A dialogue on COVID-19’s impact on the employment of people with disabilities

By Dexter Horne

Across the U.S., state and local policymakers are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with numerous policies, programs and initiatives. From health and safety protocols to vaccination requirements to telework options, many of these policies relate to employment and have the potential to benefit workers, businesses and our economic recovery. However, when implementing these policies, it is important to ensure they are inclusive of all Americans, including individuals with disabilities.

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New Resources Guide States Toward More Inclusive Telework

States are increasingly turning to telework. Every state now has some form of telework policy – whether for emergency situations, for specific agencies, or for all agencies in the state. Yet these policies (and corresponding telework programs) are not necessarily inclusive of people with disabilities. As states revisit or develop public sector telework policies, they have the opportunity to make telework policies and programs more accessible to all employees – including those with disabilities – and to realize the corresponding benefits of inclusive telework.

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Web Accessibility in the States

Dina Klimkina, Dexter Horne, and Jorden Jones

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require government agencies receiving federal funding to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to persons with disabilities. However, a 2018 study by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation found that only 59% of state websites passed accessibility standards, while 9% of state websites were highly inaccessible.

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Utilizing Public Sector Apprenticeships to Improve Employment Outcomes

Dexter Horne 

Prior to his inauguration, President Joe Biden pledged to invest $50 billion in workforce training, including a substantial investment in the national Registered Apprenticeship Program that would “exponentially increase the number of apprenticeships in this country.” Concurrently, the House passed a bill in November — which has now received its second reading in the Senate — that would invest nearly $4 billion over five years in apprenticeship program expansion. These promises and actions at the federal level show that, in a country challenged by recession and high retirement rates, policymakers believe that apprenticeships are viable employment solutions.  

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Building Resilience: How Inclusive Apprenticeship Programs Are Responding to COVID-19

By Elise Gurney

Work-based learning experiences – like apprenticeships, job shadowing, and internships – serve a vital role in helping youth with disabilities transition into the workforce. In particular, they allow youth to develop job skills, identify strengths and career interests, and build their resumes. Yet, just like school-based learning, work-based learning has faced significant disruptions due to COVID-19. While some work-based learning can be easily transitioned to an online format, other programs pose greater challenges. 

Apprenticeships are one area where states are grappling with how to continue providing opportunities for youth with disabilities. Apprenticeships include on-the-job training and related classroom instruction, and result in a portable and marketable credential. According to the DOL Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Apprenticeship Inclusion Models (AIM) initiative, “building, scaling, and sustaining apprenticeship programs can be challenging under ordinary circumstances,” and the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced additional hardships. While some classroom components can be conducted remotely, many on-the-job training components can’t be – particularly for hands-on industries like manufacturing or construction. 

The AIM team is leading a webinar to discuss how apprenticeship stakeholders are responding to the current crisis and designing more resilient programs for the future. “Emerging Lessons for Inclusive Apprenticeship Programs Managing Through Crises and Beyond” is the latest installment of AIM’s Research Brief Series, and will feature experts in the inclusive apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship spaces. 

The webinar will be held on Wednesday, September 16, from 1pm to 2:30pm EDT. Register here: https://www.addevent.com/event/zb5072251 

AIM is a collaboration between Social Policy Research Associates (SPR), Wheelhouse Group (Wheelhouse), and Jobs for the Future (JFF). To learn more about the AIM project, please visit the AIM website at https://www.spra.com/aim/.

National Apprenticeship Week

By Christina Gordley & Dexter Horne

National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) is November 8-14, 2020! The week is a nationwide celebration sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor to unite business leaders, job seekers, educational institutions and other vital partners to show their support for apprenticeships. National Apprenticeship Week allows apprenticeship sponsors to highlight the benefits of apprenticeships and exhibit the ways in which they can provide a gateway for individuals to join the workforce. States can benefit too; the wide range of public and private apprenticeships showcased during this week serve as models for the types of programs that could be implemented at the state level.

Apprenticeships provide vital hands-on technical training for individuals seeking to gain new skills and employment while allowing them to earn a paycheck. Apprenticeships also help individuals gain the skills and experience needed to help employers build a skilled talent base customized to their needs as industry demands change. According to Apprenticehips.gov, workers who complete apprenticeship programs earn an average salary of $70,000. Successful apprenticeship programs can bring significant value to a state through worker employability, productivity and earnings potential.

Registered Apprenticeships vs. Work-based learning

The Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) is a proven model that has been validated by the U.S. Department of Labor or a state apprenticeship agency. Apprentices are paid employees that develop skills in a structured work setting. Their training is enhanced with classroom education and professional mentorship. Upon completion of the apprenticeship, the apprenticeship receives a national portable credential.

Work-based learning (WBL) initiatives range from internships, apprenticeships, mentorships, job-shadowing, and classroom learning. Through these initiatives, states can provide individuals the opportunity to develop hard and soft skills to succeed in the workplace. Work-based learning programs are different from registered apprenticeships in that not all participants are paid employees and participants may not receive a nationally recognized and/or portable credential. However, WBL initiatives are a valuable training activity that should be considered by states and employers.

Benefits for Employers

For employers, major benefits to apprenticeships include:

· Customized training tailored to industry specific needs resulting in skilled employees.

· Increased knowledge transfer between the on-the job-learning from a mentor in conjunction with education courses.

· Greater employee retention.

· Pipeline of stable and reliable qualified workers.

· Tax credits and other incentives, including potential access to funding and resources from federal programs.

· National industry recognition as a quality program.

· Industries who focus on safety training during apprenticeships can increase workplace safety among new employees leading to a reduction in workers compensation costs.

Benefits for States

Apprenticeships are not only beneficial for the employer and employee, but to entire state economies. For states, major benefits to apprenticeships include:

· Increased access to talent pools which can reduce the industry costs of turnover in a community.

· Reduced barriers to high skilled jobs, creating a workforce that can fill industry specific employment gaps.

· Decreased unemployment rates and an improved state economy.

· Increased earnings potential for workers; and as a result, an increase in spending capacity for workers and tax base for state governments.

· Models for state government apprenticeship programs that can help states attract and retain a skilled public workforce.

· Potential federal funding for apprenticeship expansion.

· The opportunity to attract new industries to states.

Funding Apprenticeships

Private sector apprenticeship programs are primarily financed by the employer, with state funding acting as an additional investment. Employers might pay wages and finance any classroom instruction, while state funding acts as a strong incentive for businesses to develop these programs. State funding can supplement apprenticeship programs by subsidizing wages, covering any credentialing costs, and providing resources for technical assistance.

Federal Fund opportunities are also available to assist states in the expansion of apprenticeship programs for public and private sector apprenticeships. The U.S. Department of Labor has announced federal funding awards totaling $183.8 million to support the development and expansion of apprenticeships for educational institutions partnering with companies, with an additional $100 million for efforts to expand apprenticeships and close the skills gap. Recently the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration announced funding of over $42 Million in grant awards to increase youth participation in Registered Apprenticeships.

Events and Resources on Apprenticeships

There are many events and resources available for states, employers and job seekers to learn more about the benefits and how to engage in an apprenticeship program. Here are a few to get you started:

· The Council of State Governments is currently hosting the CSG2020 National Conference Reimagined. On October 28th, 2020, CSG partnered with the Urban Institute to host a virtual conversation on Utilizing Public Sector Apprenticeships to Improve Employment Outcomes. The session covered the benefits of civic sector and inclusive apprenticeships and shared case studies from Massachusetts and Ohio. View the session recording and transcript here. · In 2019, CSG published The Future of the Workforce: Approaches to Increasing Access and Inclusion report, in partnership with The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy’s State Exchange on Employment and Disability. The report serves as a

resource providing policy options and best practices to states focused on apprenticeship, automation and technology and the gig economy. The report highlighted the benefits to apprenticeships for private and public sector employers and how they can be pivotal in creation of the future workforce that is not limited to traditional trades but can also include health care, information technology, financial services and civil service.

· See our blog on Building Inclusive Apprenticeships: Upcoming Webinars Discuss Design and Funding Strategies discussing the benefits of inclusive apprenticeships and the AIM Research Brief Series. Read the blog here.

· Learn more about National Apprenticeship Week, events across the nation, and how to get started with an apprenticeship program at www.apprenticeship.gov

Industry-Led Apprenticeships Emerging as a Pathway to Employment

By Sydney Geiger

Apprenticeships are an avenue of education and training that allow people to receive valuable knowledge and job skills without attaining a college degree.

In June 2017, President Donald Trump released the Presidential Executive Order Expanding Apprenticeships in America, which promotes the easing of regulatory burdens surrounding apprenticeship programs and encourages third-party development of apprenticeship programs. Allowing more businesses, nonprofits, labor-management organizations and professional associations to become certifiers of apprenticeship programs offers a new entryway to the workforce in a variety of fields. The purpose of the industry-recognized apprenticeship program, often referred to as IRAP, is to break down barriers in order to expand apprenticeship opportunities.

To qualify as a certifier of apprenticeship programs, non-government organizations will have to meet a variety of requirements including expertise in the sector, a paid work component, on-the-job training, and the ability to track progress and successes.

IRAP is unique because it allows industries to design their own guidelines and apprenticeship programs to best suit industry needs. Since IRAPs will be accredited by independent organizations, it allows the industry to gain recognition for hosting a high-quality program to attract new, skilled employees.

States have shown a strong interest in investing in apprenticeship programs. Washington reached a record of 18,947 citizens participating in apprenticeship programs in 2018. According to Matthew Erlich from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, the state has over 5,000 employers throughout more than 180 occupations offering apprenticeships. In 2018, Missouri invested over $3.5 million to develop and expand the state’s apprenticeship programs.

“The application process for Department of Labor’s Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP) accreditors, as well as for those sponsors interested participating in the IRAP program, have not yet started,” stated James Foti, a regional office of apprenticeship director for the Department of Labor. Although the program is still not underway, states are already showing an interest in being involved.

“We look forward to learning more about how the program will operate, but I can tell you that Ohio fully supports the implementation of the program,” said Bret Crow of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. North Carolina Apprenticeship Director Kathryn Castelloes said that North Carolina also plans to participate with IRAPs.

While the implementation and execution of IRAPs are not finalized, the overall message is clear: apprenticeships are an avenue for states to upskill their workforce to meet the needs of industries experiencing employee shortages. 

Kentucky Paves the Way for Public Sector Apprenticeships

By Sydney Geiger

Kentuckians work for the government at a rate slightly higher than the national average — 16.2%. Based on application trends, however, that percentage might decrease. According to a report from the National Association of State Chief Administrators, the number of applicants for state government jobs has decreased by 24% from 2013 through 2017.[1]

In 2018, Kentucky launched an innovative apprenticeship program to engage apprentices in the public sector. Former Education and Workforce Development Secretary Derek Ramsey led the project as a part of his larger apprenticeship efforts and to recruit talented workers to ensure a high-quality state workforce. Creating a strong public sector workforce is a priority for many states.

The recent CSG Future of the Workforce Report highlights the growth of apprenticeships nationwide. Both workers and employers benefit from apprenticeships. Workers (apprentices) benefit from earning money while learning through hands-on training and technical instruction. They also receive mentorship from the employer. Following the apprenticeship, workers often receive a nationally recognized credential, a career pathway with a competitive salary and little to no education debt. Additionally, employers benefit from the ability to create customized training and develop job-specific qualifications. Employers also benefit from enhanced retention, increased productivity and lower recruitment costs. 

Apprenticeships are also an opportunity to improve inclusivity. With the flexibility of creating apprenticeship programs, states can ensure that programs suit specific communities and populations in their state such as people with disabilities.

The Urban Institute published a report in 2019 highlighting Kentucky’s efforts.

The report examines four Kentucky public sector apprenticeship programs:

  1. Direct Support Specialist program administered by the Department of Community Based Services
  2.  Computer Support Specialist (Help Desk Technician) program administered by the Commonwealth Office of Technology
  3. Automotive Technician Specialist program administered by the Transportation Cabinet
  4. Office Administrative Services program administered by Barren County Government.

Urban Institute research includes the development, design, recruitment, operation, benefits and future plans of the apprenticeship programs.

Kentucky’s efforts were a great example of strategic partnerships across government agencies. The report highlights how, in order to develop these apprenticeships, the Education and Workforce Cabinet coordinated with the Personnel Cabinet to develop the positions within the state system. Leaders across the state, from apprenticeship coordinators to local technical education teachers, advocated for numerous offices to participate. According to the report, “Officials from the Personnel, Labor, and Education and Workforce Cabinets led discussions with state and local government staff to make the case for apprenticeship in their offices.”[2]

Secretary Ramsey stated at the launch of the DCBS Social Services apprenticeship pilot, “Simply put, apprenticeships within state government have the potential to bring important long-term cost savings to Kentucky taxpayers. Apprenticing social services positions at the DCBS is only the beginning for implementing this training model in other agencies.”[3]

The report concludes that Kentucky’s public sector apprenticeships have produced great success thus far and that other departments, such as the Department of Corrections and Veteran’s Affairs, are exploring apprenticeship opportunities. Other states will likely follow Kentucky’s lead.


[1] “Reimagine Today’s State Government Workforce” NASCA, 2019.

[2] “Leading by Example: Public Sector Apprenticeships in Kentucky” Urban Institute, 2019.

[3] “Kentucky Launches First-of-Its-Kind Apprenticeship Program for Social Services,” The Lane Report, 2018.  

Inclusive Apprenticeships: How States are Supporting Skills Training for People with Disabilities

By Elise Gurney

Apprenticeships are on the rise. Employers are increasingly turning to apprenticeships to build strong pipelines of talent, and states are investing in apprenticeships as important workforce development tools. Inclusive apprenticeships – that is, apprenticeships that provide skills training to people with disabilities – provide additional benefits. In particular, they can help employers and states increase the hiring and retention of people with disabilities. States are taking a number of approaches to make apprenticeship programs more inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities.

Inclusion can be considered at various stages in the apprenticeship process. This includes:

(1)Developing Apprenticeships, to ensure that apprenticeship programs consider the unique strengths and needs of people with disabilities from the start;

(2)Preparing Apprentices, to ensure that people with disabilities have the proper skills and training to enter apprenticeship programs;

(3)Hiring Apprentices, to ensure that people with disabilities are targeted for and connected directly with apprenticeship opportunities;

(4)Supporting Apprentices, to ensure that apprentices with disabilities have access to the resources, supports, and protections they need to be successful.

Below are examples of where states have incorporated inclusion into each of these four stages of the apprenticeship process.

-Developing Apprenticeships

  • In order to develop accessible and inclusive apprenticeships from the start, states are incorporating voices and entities from the disability community – including Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies – into apprenticeship planning discussions and the development of apprenticeship grants.
    • California Assembly Bill 1019 amended Sections 3071.5 and 3073.3 of the California Labor Code to add the Director of Rehabilitation and the Executive Director of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities to California’s Interagency Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships, and to create a subcommittee focused on apprenticeships for the disability community. These efforts are collectively intended to “encourage greater participation for the disabled in apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs.”
    • Wisconsin’s Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards collaborates with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and writes the Division into its grants, to ensure that a disability perspective is being incorporated into apprenticeship development.

-Preparing Apprentices

  • As part of their strategy to prepare people with disabilities for apprenticeships, states are increasingly turning toward pre-apprenticeships (which prepare individuals for entry into registered apprenticeship programs). In particular, states are designing pre-apprenticeship programs specifically for people with disabilities, targeting people with disabilities for those programs, and/or providing additional supports to ensure that people with disabilities are successful in their pre-apprenticeships.
    • Pennsylvania’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation – in collaboration with other local government and private sector entities, including a community rehabilitation provider – developed a pre-apprenticeship program in the warehousing sector. Warehousing companies in the state have agreed to hire graduates of the pre-apprenticeship program, resulting in over 28 individuals with disabilities attaining registered apprenticeships.
    • New Jersey Senate Bill 688 proposes that pre-apprenticeships and school-to-apprenticeship linkage programs include training and services that help maximize program participation by individuals with disabilities. These services include counseling, life skills training, math and literacy training, and one-on-one tutoring.

-Hiring Apprentices

  • States have taken various approaches to support the recruitment and hiring of people with disabilities for apprenticeship programs. This includes connecting people with disabilities directly to apprenticeship opportunities and supporting them through the application process, as well as providing tax incentives to businesses that hire apprentices with disabilities.
    • Ohio’s Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) Vocational Apprentice Program collaborates with Ohio state agencies to identify their workforce needs and develop apprenticeship opportunities that align with the goals of students and adults with disabilities. The program assists participants throughout the application, interview, and onboarding processes.
    • New Jersey Senate Bill 1159 proposes to provide tax credits to businesses for each apprentice that they employ, and to provide additional incentives if those individuals are “underrepresented in that career field” based on a range of demographic characteristics, including disability.

-Supporting Apprentices

  • States have developed a range of resources and protections to support people with disabilities throughout their apprenticeships. This includes facilitating peer-to-peer mentoring, to help apprentices with disabilities navigate the challenges they face in the workplace and prohibiting discrimination against apprentices on the basis of their disability.
    • Michigan House Bill 4579 proposed the establishment of a peer-to-peer apprenticeship mentoring program for people with disabilities (along with other under-represented groups), to provide “mentoring and support services…and establish a network of peers involved in apprenticeship[s].”
    • Virginia House Bill 1252 amended and added to § 40.1-121 of the Code of Virginia, to prohibit sponsors of registered apprenticeship programs from discriminating against apprentices or apprentice applicants on the basis of disability (among other demographic characteristics).

Telework: Ensuring Inclusion During COVID-19 & Beyond

By Elise Gurney

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the percentage of Americans who work remotely has increased from roughly 15% to 50%. The transition to telework has required everyone to adjust, but it has posed unique challenges for some people with disabilities. On December 17th, The Council of State Governments’ (CSG) National Conference session, “Telework: Adapting to the COVID-19 Economy”  explored these challenges, and showcased strategies that state governments, local governments, and the private sector are using to accommodate employees with disabilities amid new telework conditions and beyond. The session also premiered CSG and the State Exchange on Employment & Disability’s new report “Disability-Inclusive Telework for States“.

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