Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Apprenticeship & WBL

Innovation Hub

JFF's National Innovation Hub for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Registered Apprenticeship focuses on expanding access to career pathways in apprenticeship for members of populations that are currently underrepresented in apprenticeship, including Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) workers and women of all backgrounds.

To fulfill that mission, the Innovation Hub will do the following:

  • Offer direct support and technical assistance to apprenticeship providers and employers, educators, and community-based organizations
  • Develop tools, resources, and educational content
  • Create high-quality pre-apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, and other programs that offer people pathways into Registered Apprenticeship programs

The Innovation Hub is operated by JFF and supported by these expert partners:

  • The Center for Minority Serving Institutions at Rutgers University (CMSI)
  • Chicago Women in the Trades (CWIT)
  • Intelligent Partnerships (IP), inclusion design consultants
  • Apprenticeship Carolina
  • The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS)
  • OneTen
  • UnidosUS
  • The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at the University of Massachusetts, Boston
  • Donna Lenhoff Associates, EEO law firm

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The Innovation Hub is one of four Registered Apprenticeship Technical Assistance Centers of Excellence developed under a four-year cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor. Here’s the full list:

Why DEIA Matters in Apprenticeship

Though apprenticeships have a proven track record of producing strong results for both employers and workers, there is still a long way to go toward advancing equity in apprenticeship participation.

  • According to demographic data provided by 686,000 apprentices between 2010 and 2019, 77.5% identified as white, 15.3% as Black, 2.9% American Indian/Alaska Native, 2.1% Asian, 1.6% Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, and 0.5% as multi-racial.
  • Apprentices identifying as Hispanic represented 18.3% of all apprentices from 2010-2019, with an average annual proportion of 15.5%.
  • Completion rates for White apprentices reached 33% but only 24% for Black apprentices.
  • Between 2010 and 2019, women accounted for an average of 8.5% of apprentices, and only 3.5% of construction apprentices.

Taking steps to open up apprenticeship to more women, people of color, youth, and members of other demographic groups that have historically been underrepresented in work-based learning programs can expand access to defined career pathways and jobs that pay good wages. Redesigning apprenticeship systems so that they explicitly focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion is the only way to deliver the promise of apprenticeship to all Americans.

Improving diversity in apprenticeship—and, in turn, the entire workforce—will also benefit employers, not just workers. Companies that tap into a broader segment of the labor market can not only improve their bottom-line results, but also reap other benefits that a diverse workforce can offer, such as greater innovation.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion should be built into each stage of the design and delivery of apprenticeship and work-based learning programs. The first step is to clearly define what diversity, equity, and inclusion will look like within a particular program and then set explicit DEI recruiting goals. To reach those goals, program sponsors and employers can adjust participant selection processes to reach a wider talent pool by striving to mitigate unconscious bias in hiring practices, recruiting from diverse pipelines, and encouraging current employees who come from underrepresented populations to pursue apprenticeship opportunities.

Some candidates identified through efforts like those may benefit from preparatory experiences, such as pre-apprenticeships and readiness programs. They may also need wraparound supports that ease the burden of juggling training and other responsibilities. Employers interested in offering such services can partner with community-based organizations that understand the needs of individual apprentices. The goal is to try to boost completion rates by offering flexible and responsive training programs.

Finally, to help ensure that apprentices go on the achieve lasting success in the workplace, employers may want to continue to offer them supports after they complete their training. They could also track the advancement of former apprentices, provide them with professional development opportunities, and review payrolls and workplace environments to ensure that wages and management practices are equitable.