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Innovating in Apprenticeship

Participants in an inclusive apprenticeship program
Through the AIM initiative, organizations in diverse fields – from healthcare to tech to manufacturing – are making their apprenticeship programs more inclusive. 

The Apprenticeship Inclusion Models (AIM) team is excited to share some updates about our work. AIM is an initiative funded by a contract with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy to research, develop, test, and evaluate innovative strategies in existing apprenticeship programs that provide skills training to people with disabilities.

To do this, we have been working with four apprenticeship programs to enhance practices, innovate supports, and expand pathways for people with disabilities into high-demand, well-paying careers. Here’s a closer look at two of the apprenticeship programs that are participating:

Apprenti

Apprenti is a program of the Washington Technology Industry Association Workforce Institute. It combines paid on-the-job training and education to equip workers for high-skill occupations in the tech industry. Currently, 12% of their apprentices self-identify as having a disability.

The AIM team has supported Apprenti’s inclusion efforts by helping them update their marketing approach to make it more inclusive across the board. We reviewed and edited their marketing materials, providing guidance to make their digital documents and social media more accessible. We also focused on adding inclusive language and resources in their orientation materials for new apprentices, from general information for workers with disabilities as well as specific guidance addressing questions around self-identification of employees with disabilities.

AIM also supports Apprenti’s dedication to inclusion by working with an accessibility subject matter expert to audit Apprenti’s application portal, which will be brought up to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Level 2.1 AA over the coming months. Given the number of applicants and participants that Apprenti interacts with, all of these improvements could have a real impact on the number of Apprenti apprentices with disabilities.

Industrial Manufacturing Technician

AIM is working with the Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT) apprenticeship program to expand its reach to people with learning disabilities. IMT trains frontline manufacturing production workers in the skills that today’s advanced manufacturers need. Apprentices may go on to work in settings as diverse as food processing, foundries, plastics, and biomedical equipment.

IMT aims to expand access to people with learning disabilities by developing a technology solution, “IMTFOLIO,” that will provide a way for participants to demonstrate their ongoing mastery of skills versus a traditional test assessment. Traditional assessments are a one-time, one-size-fits-all approach that require extensive recall, whereas IMTFOLIO will allow for practical application and assessment of skills and competencies at multiple points. IMTFOLIO will be piloted in IMT’s Wisconsin and Minnesota pre-apprenticeship programs.

The IMT project team consists of Jobs for the Future as the project lead, the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership as the apprenticeship intermediary, and CAST as the technology and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) partner. CAST is designing IMTFOLIO using the UDL framework because it is a proven way to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how we learn. IMT anticipates that IMTFOLIO will provide a better measure of learning and skill mastery as well as a more constructive way for trainers and pre-apprentices to interact while adhering to high industry standards.

These programs and others are linking more Americans with disabilities to quality apprenticeship programs that lay the foundation for sustainable careers. Learn more about the Department’s efforts to expand inclusive apprenticeship opportunities and create pathways to employment.

Learn more about apprenticeship on Apprenticeship.gov, the one-stop source for all things apprenticeship sponsored by the Department of Labor.

Carolyn Jones is a senior policy adviser with the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s Youth Policy Team.

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