States can facilitate skill development and job exploration opportunities for individuals with disabilities through programs that facilitate work-based learning (WBL). Apprenticeship programs are a WBL model that can align with education and career development planning and meet predicted workforce needs. Learn more in the Work Matters Framework.
Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs)
Registered Apprenticeships have been in existence for more than 110 years and are a proven training program model registered and validated by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Apprenticeships allow individuals to earn money and learn through technical instruction and hands-on training. Throughout the duration of the job, apprentices receive a paycheck guaranteed to increase as their training progresses. Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) programs meet national standards established by DOL or federally-recognized State Apprenticeship Agencies. This makes their credentials portable and recognizable to employers nationwide. As a result, completion of an apprenticeship can lay the foundation for a career with a competitive salary.
The first Registered Apprenticeship program was created by Wisconsin in 1911, and by the mid-1940s there were more than 6,000 programs across 26 states. While these programs originally existed mainly in manufacturing, construction and utilities, following World War II the model was adopted for training firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians and other health and safety workers. Today, RAPs are being created in non-traditional sectors such as energy conservation, health care and information technology.
DOL has made Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) regulations a cornerstone of Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) programs (Apprenticehip.Gov EEO webpage). Equal opportunity is promoted for apprentices and applicants in these programs by prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age (40 or older), genetic information or disability. Apprenticeship sponsors are required to provide reasonable accommodations, upon request, to applicants and apprentices with disabilities to allow them to perform critical job functions. The department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) supports apprenticeship program models that are inclusive of individuals with disabilities by working with national and state policymakers and providing examples of effective practices. One way this happens is through the State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED), a unique state-federal collaboration that counts The Council of State Governments among its partners. SEED resources include a fact sheet on “Advancing Policy for a More Inclusive Workforce.”
"Examples include physical and digital accessibility of facilities, flexible work schedules, new or modified tools and equipment and personnel support as needed."
STATE POLICIES RELEVANT TO INCLUSIVE APPRENTICESHIP
Assembly Bill 1019 (bill text, 2019) – Efforts to encourage greater participation of people with disabilities in apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs
National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity’s PIPELine to Career Success for Students with Disabilities (webpage)
Illinois Senate Bill 534 (bill text, 2019) – Advisory Board for Diversity in Active Apprenticeship Programs
Income Tax Benefit for Iowa Employers Who Hire Persons with Disabilities (Iowa Department of Revenue webpage)
Coronavirus Relief Fund Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) Expansion Grant Opportunities (Iowa Workforce Development press release, 2020)
Disability Employment Tax Credit (Maryland Department of Labor webpage)
Modernization and Diversification of Apprenticeship Programs (Institute for Community Inclusion press release, 2021)
Increasing Apprentice Diversity Innovation Cohort (Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development press release, 2020)
Office of Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning (Executive Order 19-20, 2019)
Assembly Bill 68 (bill text, 2019) – State Apprenticeship Council Membership
Universal Outreach Tool (U.S. Department of Labor webpage)
Apprentice Assistance and Support Services Pilot Program (New Jersey Statutes Title 34)
Senate Bill 3066 (bill text, 2020) – High-Growth Industry Regional Apprenticeship Development Grant Pilot Program
Senate Bill 3064 (bill text, 2020) – Task force to develop statewide plan to diversify apprenticeships
Work Opportunity Tax Credit (New York State Department of Labor web page)
Executive Order Establishing Ohio as a Disability Inclusive State and Model Employer of Individuals with Disabilities (Executive Order 2019-03D, 2019)
Pre-Apprenticeship Programs (Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries website)
JEVS Human Services hireAbility Program (JEVS webpage)
Job Tax Credit for Employing Persons with Disabilities (Employment Incentives webpage)
Golden Key Awards Presented by Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (Utah Department of Workforce Services webpage)
Shenandoah Valley Workforce Partnership (Shenandoah Valley Partnership webpage)
Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards Collaboration (Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development website)
Through apprenticeships, participants can gain hands-on training and practical on-the-job experience that prepares them for and can catapult them into the world of work.
For individuals with disabilities, the value of inclusive apprenticeships is even more significant, allowing them to demonstrate their value to employers, as well as gain new skills that can set them on the path to a career. Young people with disabilities who participate in apprenticeships and other work-based learning opportunities experience stronger career outcomes, research shows.
Governors, state legislatures and state apprenticeship agencies have turned to a variety of strategies aimed at making apprenticeships more inclusive. Among them:
1. STATE GOVERNMENT AS A MODEL EMPLOYER
State policymakers can encourage employers to be inclusive of apprentices with disabilities by being model employers and creating inclusive public sector apprenticeships at state agencies where appropriate. States can become model employers by enacting formal declarations through executive order, legislation or both; creating cabinet positions, task forces and other infrastructure to focus on these issues; creating comprehensive government-wide strategic plans; enacting diversity and inclusion initiatives; and taking other actions identified elsewhere on the CSG State as a Model Employer webpage, developed in collaboration with the State Exchange on Employment & Disability.
State policies related to state government as a model employer
- Adopt formal mechanisms to enact policies committing states to being model employers of people with disabilities
- Act as a model employer by connecting individuals with disabilities to jobs in state government and offering opportunities for work-based learning
OHIO: As noted above, Governor Mike DeWine signed an executive order in 2019 establishing Ohio as a disability inclusive state and model employer of individuals with disabilities.
Other states where governors have deployed executive orders to commit their states to be model employers of people with disabilities are Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, and Vermont. Seven other states (Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, Oklahoma, and Utah) have done so through legislation. An additional seven states (Alaska, California, Delaware, Maine, Minnesota, New York, and Washington) have executive orders and legislation making such a commitment.
2 DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION REQUIREMENTS
Achieving full disability inclusion in apprenticeships requires a wide array of strategies, but it begins with goal setting. It is important to set aspirational, yet achievable and measurable goals and have a clear understanding of what diversity, equity and inclusion should look like within an apprenticeship program. State Apprenticeship Agencies can work with employers, program sponsors and other stakeholders to establish expectations and define eligibility and selection processes.
Apprenticeship stakeholders can work together on strategic plans to create discrimination-free environments; review personnel processes to address barriers to equal opportunity; conduct targeted outreach and recruitment; and implement monitoring and reporting to ensure continuous improvement across the program (Urban Institute).
Employers alone often do not have the capacity to design and develop inclusive apprenticeship programs. Specialist disability employment service providers can share indispensable knowledge of the challenges, needs and strengths of individuals with disabilities in the workplace setting (Urban Institute).
State policies related to diversity and inclusion requirements
- Seek champions across state government to advocate for inclusive apprenticeships
- Establish a task force to develop a plan to diversify apprenticeships into new industries based on current and predicted state workforce needs
- Require that apprenticeship expansion initiatives increase diversity and inclusion
- Work closely with community colleges to engage diverse populations
IOWA: In September 2020, Governor Kim Reynolds announced (Iowa Workforce Development press release) $5 million in grants from the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund for high schools, nonprofit organizations and small businesses with less than 50 employees and an additional $5 million in grants for postsecondary institutions and health care employers. The grant funding can be used to purchase equipment, tools, simulators, instructional materials, updated curricula or other items to expand or create Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs). The apprenticeship expansion funds awarded by the state came with a requirement that each initiative increase minority populations approximately 10 percent. Twenty-three individuals with disabilities, including several veterans with service-related injuries, took part in programs that received grant funding. The state also has been looking closely at how workplaces can be modified to accommodate individuals with disabilities.
MASSACHUSETTS: The commonwealth’s Division of Apprenticeship Standards works closely with Americans with Disabilities Act coordinators and diversity coordinators to make apprenticeship offerings more inclusive. The office also is working to build relationships with career centers and break down silos that exist in the wider workforce system. Officials see a great opportunity to engage with diverse populations in utilizing community colleges to lead the instructional part of apprenticeships. They also hope to rectify an underrepresentation of diverse populations in some sectors where apprenticeships are offered, including the financial and lending sectors.
OHIO: Governor Mike DeWine signed an executive order in 2019 establishing Ohio as a disability-inclusive state and model employer of individuals with disabilities. The order also tasked the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, the State Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator and Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities with ensuring all state employees participate in regular disability etiquette and awareness training to build and sustain a culture of inclusion in the workplace.
3. AGENCY COLLABORATION
State policymakers can ensure apprenticeship programs are inclusive by creating opportunities for collaboration among state agencies and organizations that provide services to various populations (e.g. the blind or visually impaired, the deaf and hard of hearing) and understand the needs of employers.
State policies related to agency collaboration
- Create interagency task forces with the goal of expanding apprenticeship opportunities and ensuring inclusion
- Encourage cross-agency collaboration to ensure apprenticeship programs reflect the unique strengths and needs of individuals with disabilities as apprenticeships are developed
CALIFORNIA: In 2019, state lawmakers established through Assembly Bill 1019 (bill text, 2019) the California Interagency Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship within the Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Apprenticeship Standards and required the committee to create a subcommittee to address apprenticeship for the disabled community.
OHIO: The state’s apprenticeship agency, Apprentice Ohio, works in close collaboration with a diverse group of state agencies and other stakeholders to provide inclusive apprenticeship programs. The agency works to develop programs that can be inclusive and writes into selection requirements that if a worksite can accommodate an individual who can then perform a particular job, the employer should do so. Organizations and agencies that regularly collaborate include Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities and the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.
Recognized by DOL but not registered with the department, pre-apprenticeship opportunities prepare individuals to enter and succeed in a Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP). These opportunities incorporate a curriculum based on industry standards; hands on training or volunteer opportunities; agreements with sponsors of Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) that facilitate entry of program participants; and support services like childcare and transportation to allow apprentices to succeed. Pre-apprenticeship programs also allow for the recruitment and preparation of various underrepresented populations for RAPs, which can facilitate increased diversity and inclusivity in the program and in the workforce.
State policies related to pre-apprenticeships
- Create pre-apprenticeship opportunities to ensure those with disabilities have the necessary skills to participate in apprenticeships
Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin are among the leaders in providing formal recognition or certification of pre-apprenticeship programs that meet minimum quality standards. These states developed standards for pre-apprenticeship programs and certify these opportunities so that they can feed into RAPs.
OREGON: The Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries website lists 25 pre-apprenticeship programs in the state (as of February 9, 2022), split nearly evenly between those offered to youth and those for adults.
WASHINGTON: The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries website lists 34 pre-apprenticeship programs recognized by the Washington State Apprenticeship and Training Council.
WISCONSIN: The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development website lists 29 certified pre-apprenticeship programs that can help job seekers gain the necessary skills required for Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs).
Other states that recognize pre-apprenticeships include Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio (which has more than 100 pre-apprenticeship programs), Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee, according to Jobs for the Future.
5. TAX INCENTIVES
Some states provide tax incentives to businesses that hire apprentices with disabilities. They do this for a variety of reasons including as a way to overcome the significant barriers to employment these individuals have faced, because the states have made the employment of individuals with disabilities a priority and in order to allow businesses to absorb the costs associated with providing greater access to these individuals.
State policies related to tax incentives
- Create tax incentives for businesses that hire apprentices with disabilities
- Provide financial incentives for companies utilizing innovative and inclusive models
DELAWARE: The state offers a tax credit (Delaware Code Online webpage) for employers who hire individuals with disabilities referred by the state vocational rehabilitation program. It is equal to 10 percent of the employee’s gross wages (not to exceed $1,500) paid by the employer in the course of the employee’s sustained employment during the taxable year.
IOWA: The state allows qualifying small businesses an additional deduction (Iowa Department of Revenue webpage) of up to $20,000 per employee with a disability on their state income tax returns.
LOUISIANA: For each qualified individual with a disability that they employ during a taxable year, employers can claim (Louisiana Department of Revenue webpage) a tax credit of up to 50 percent of gross wages during the first four months of employment, and 30 percent of gross wages during each subsequent continuous month of employment.
MARYLAND: Businesses that employ individuals with disabilities may be eligible for a tax credit (Employment Incentives webpage) for wages, childcare and transportation expenses paid to qualified employees. The credit for each disabled employee hired is equal to 30% of the first $6,000 of qualified first year wages and 20% of the first $6,000 of qualified second year wages. An additional credit of up to $600 for the first year and up to $500 for the second year is allowed for expenses incurred by the employer for approved day care services for a child or children of a qualified employee, or for transportation expenses that are incurred to enable a qualified employee to travel to and from work.
NEW YORK: The state’s Workers with Disabilities Tax Credit (Employment Incentives webpage) offers businesses up to $2,100 for each individual hired.
TENNESSEE: The state provides a job tax credit (Employment Incentives webpage) of $5,000 for each net new full-time job and a credit of $2,000 for each net new part-time job for individuals with disabilities who are receiving Tennessee state services related to the disability.
6. ELIMINATING BARRIERS TO SUCCESS
Individuals with disabilities face a variety of barriers when considering an apprenticeship. They can face employers who are reluctant to hire them because they lack an understanding about their capabilities or worry about being able to provide reasonable workplace accommodations. Moreover, they can face any number of life challenges that make participation in an apprenticeship difficult for anyone—things like reliable transportation to get to the workplace and childcare services. State policymakers can provide support and remove barriers for apprenticeship participation for individuals with disabilities through legislation that addresses needed employment supports, including transportation, health care, childcare and housing.
State policies related to removing barriers
- Create programs and supports that allow individuals to participate and achieve success in apprenticeships
NEW JERSEY: Lawmakers passed legislation in 2020 (New Jersey statutes) that established a pilot program to offer stipends to offset transportation and childcare costs for apprentices. Workers who are underrepresented in apprenticeship programs, including individuals with disabilities, are given priority under the measure.
7. DATA COLLECTION
Sponsors of Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) with five or more apprentices are required to develop affirmative action programs. They also are required to invite all apprentices and applicants to fill out a one-question voluntary disability disclosure form that offers the choice among: 1. “Yes, I have a disability (or previously had a disability),” 2. “No, I don’t have a disability,” and 3. “I don’t wish to answer.” The effort is a recognition of a previous lack of data collection on individuals with disabilities in apprenticeship programs (Urban Institute) and allows programs to measure disability inclusion against a non-mandatory national benchmark goal of at least seven percent of apprentices being individuals with disabilities. However, the disability status field for program sponsors to fill out is voluntary and some believe there are many more apprentices who have a disability than are reflected in existing data because they either do not self-identify to the employer or the employer does not report the information (Urban Institute).
State policies related to data collection
- Encourage the collection of disability inclusion data in apprenticeship programs
- Authorize studies to assess the reliability of disability inclusion data
DELAWARE: Three Delaware state agencies have an initiative with the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE website) to analyze the level of participation of students with disabilities in work-based learning opportunities, including pre-apprenticeships and Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs). Three Delaware school districts participated in a first-year pilot in which educators, vocational rehabilitation counselors and others sought to align strategies and implement solutions around increasing the number of students with disabilities in work-based learning and career pathways programming.
MISSOURI: The state has been part of an innovation cohort (press release) to increase apprentice diversity and was one of five states to receive training from DOL. There have been investments in programs that serve people with disabilities, a priority for the Apprenticeship Missouri office and Missouri Governor Mike Parson. The office engaged with the University of Missouri at Kansas City on a grant to study the inclusivity of their programs, but some gaps in the data have been discovered. Employers may not be asking the right questions of apprentices in determining whether they have disabilities and apprentices often do not know how to respond when asked.
8. DIGITAL PLATFORM ACCESSIBILITY
The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges for apprenticeship programs. Local social distancing and stay-at-home orders affected business operations and impacted personnel that supported apprentices in the workplace. These circumstances forced many registered apprenticeship programs to slow down or stop for a period. A number of programs were able to successfully transition to remote formats, either by moving all training online or rearranging the timetables for the workplace-centered and related technical instruction components of the apprenticeship opportunity. These new ways of participating in apprenticeships, some of which have been retained, may prove to have benefits for inclusion and accessibility. But more evidence is needed and improvements in digital platforms and software tools may be required as these programs evolve to effectively serve all apprentices.
DOL’s apprenticeship.gov website highlights a number of ways virtual apprenticeship opportunities may be beneficial to some employers and apprentices, including:
- Reduced transportation costs;
- Greater consistency in training across geographic locations;
- Appeal to a new generation of employees;
- Ensured continuity and safety during future public health crises or natural disasters;
- More flexibility for apprentices to complete their instruction; and
- Greater diversity and inclusion by helping employers widen applicant pools and recruit in rural areas.
State policies related to digital platform accessibility
- Assess the advantages and disadvantages to greater inclusion presented by more online-focused apprenticeship opportunities
- Ensure digital platforms for instruction are accessible to individuals with disabilities
MISSISSIPPI: Mississippi Gulf Community College in Gulfport provides online training instruction for a bank branch manager Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP). Apprentices are spread across two states and 22 locations. The software delivery platform Canvas is used to track apprentice hours and progress.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Trident Technical College in Charleston has moved apprenticeships in bookkeeping/pre-accounting, cybersecurity, networking, computer programming, hotel operations, criminal justice and other areas to an online format.
APPRENTICESHIP RESOURCES BY CSG/SEED
- The Future of Apprenticeship: Inclusion, Expansion, and the Post-Pandemic World of Work
- The Future of the Workforce: Approaches to Increasing Access & Inclusion
- Work Matters: A Framework for States on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities
- Apprenticeships: A Pipeline for an Inclusive Recovery
- Learning on the Job for People with Disabilities
- Advancing Policy for a More Inclusive Workforce