Celebrating the 1st Annual Youth Apprenticeship Week

Youth Apprenticeship Week May 5-11, 2024

This year marks the Department of Labor’s first Annual Youth Apprenticeship Week. To kick off this inaugural celebration, Cierra Mitchell, division director of the Labor Department’s Office of Apprenticeship recently spoke with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ Acting Director Michele Hodge about how youth apprenticeship programs can improve the lives of young people across the country. 

Mitchell: What are the benefits of Registered Apprenticeship program opportunities for young people ages 16-24? 

Hodge: Youth apprenticeship provides a critical talent pipeline that can help address some of our nation’s pressing workforce challenges. Additionally, Registered Apprenticeships provide an opportunity to make good jobs more accessible to populations that have been underrepresented in the workforce, including youth, women, people of color and individuals with disabilities. We have a historic opportunity to address these inequities and must ensure that everyone has access to these high-quality, well-paying jobs. OFCCP is getting the word out to federal contractors about Youth Apprenticeship Week and the value of youth apprenticeship programs because we know that apprenticeship programs can be a pathway to the middle class. 

How do Registered Apprenticeships help increase diversity in the building and construction industry? 

The face of apprenticeship is changing, and in recent years we’ve seen more and more people from many different communities embrace apprenticeship as a rewarding career path. While some industries – including building and construction – have historically had less demographic diversity, in recent years we’ve seen meaningful efforts to recruit a more diverse workforce. In partnership with construction industry employers and community-based organizations, North America’s Building Trades Unions and its affiliates have long sponsored and promoted Registered Apprenticeship training programs. In 2022, NABTU, along with contractor partners and end users, launched TradesFutures, a non-profit corporation organized for the purpose of developing, promoting and improving apprenticeship readiness programs. APRs are pre-apprenticeship programs dedicated to assisting women, veterans and people from communities of color establish and maintain careers in the construction industry. TradesFutures develops courses and curriculum used by local ARPs, helps community-based organizations establish and maintain ARPs, and supports a broad range of efforts to assist historically underrepresented and underserved communities establish and maintain careers in the construction industry. 

How are you encouraging the development of youth apprenticeship programs? 

At OFCCP, we started the Mega Construction Project Program in 2023 which fosters equal opportunity in the construction trades workforce of federal contractors and subcontractors on large federal construction projects. Projects eligible for designation as Megaprojects are valued at $35 million or more in funding, some of which must be federal funding and are expected to last for at least one year. Through the program, we’re focusing resources on construction projects that have the greatest potential to make a positive economic difference in a community. OFCCP engagement can provide immediate impact on contractor and subcontractor recruitment and hiring practices in the construction trades, helping build robust applicant pools that include talented workers from underrepresented backgrounds. 

What are best practices federal contractors can implement when launching a youth apprenticeship program? 

Several best practices we’ve seen include removing barriers for youth and building networks to connect with youth. Our best practices for fostering diversity and inclusion includes using apprenticeship programs and youth mentoring programs. Federal contractors with connections to youth organizations, minority serving institutions and HBCUs are instrumental in providing real work experience to apprenticeship program participants, including individuals with disabilities, youth and people of color.

Learn more at our Youth Apprenticeship Week website. For more information about best practices and other Labor Department investments that promote diversity in Registered Apprenticeship, visit the Office of Apprenticeship’s Active Grants and Contracts page on apprenticeship.gov.

Cierra Mitchell is a division director of the Department of Labor's Office of Apprenticeship

 Michele Hodge is the Acting Director in the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs