By Sean Slone, Senior Policy Analyst
States are moving forward in a variety of ways to ensure a future for apprenticeships that expands into new fields and offers greater inclusion for individuals with disabilities. A February 24 webinar from The Council of State Governments (CSG) will highlight the efforts of three states and the findings of a recent report from CSG and the State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED), “The Future of Apprenticeship: Inclusion, Expansion, and the Post-Pandemic World of Work.”
- Colorado: Lawmakers approved legislation in 2021 to create a new state apprenticeship agency to “accelerate new apprenticeship program growth and assist in promotion and development.” Two councils that will advise development of a state plan will each include at least one member focused on promoting equal opportunity in apprenticeships. Denise Miller, apprenticeship expansion manager in Colorado’s Office of the Future of Work, will talk about how the state’s approach will be different.
- New Jersey: It is not just about offering apprenticeship opportunities to those with disabilities. States also can make efforts to ensure apprentices with disabilities are ultimately successful by providing support services and removing barriers to success. Lawmakers in New Jersey passed legislation in 2020 establishing a five-year pilot program providing stipends to offset transportation and childcare costs for apprentices. Workers underrepresented in apprenticeship programs, including individuals with disabilities, were given priority under the measure. New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, who has championed apprenticeship legislation, will be among the webinar presenters.
- Ohio: States are encouraging more inclusion of individuals with disabilities in apprenticeships by acting as model employers, signing up apprentices for public sector work experience opportunities at state agencies. Jon Hackathorn, business relations manager for employer and innovation services at Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, will talk about one such program. Ohio’s Vocational Apprentice Program supports a 2019 executive order issued by Governor Mike DeWine establishing Ohio as a disability inclusion state and model employer of individuals with disabilities.
Moderating the discussion will be David Leon, director of workforce programs at the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
The recent CSG-SEED report on “The Future of Apprenticeship” incorporates input from dozens of apprenticeship program officials and experts around the country, examples from 30 states, and a comprehensive list of suggested strategies across four categories:
- Promoting and sustaining inclusivity in apprenticeships, particularly for individuals with disabilities;
- Ensuring long-term sustainable growth in funding for apprenticeships;
- Expanding apprenticeship opportunities; and
- Ensuring the resilience of apprenticeship programs.
As noted in the report, among the ways state officials can promote and sustain inclusivity are:
- Working across state agencies to ensure apprenticeship programs reflect the unique strengths and needs of individuals with disabilities;
- Creating pre-apprenticeship opportunities to ensure those with disabilities have the necessary skills to participate in apprenticeships;
- Creating tax incentives for businesses that hire apprentices with disabilities; and
- Requiring that apprenticeship expansion initiatives increase diversity and inclusion.
The benefits of inclusive apprenticeships are numerous, offering the opportunity for:
- Apprentices to gain hands-on career training;
- Employers to train their future workforce; and
- States to increase the pipeline of qualified public and private sector employees.
For individuals with disabilities, the benefits of inclusive apprenticeships can be even more profound, allowing them to demonstrate their value to an employer and gain new skills that can set them on a promising career path.
The free webinar, The Future of Apprenticeship: Inclusion and Expansion in a Post-Pandemic World of Work, will take place February 24 at 2:00 p.m. (ET). Register HERE to receive the Zoom link for the conversation.