Many Americans, including people with disabilities, have experienced substantial disruptions to normal work routines and daily life activities in the community. About 22 percent of people in the United States have a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their unemployment rate of 9.2 percent in 2017 was more than twice that of U.S. workers with no disability (4.2 percent). While nearly half of all persons with a disability in 2017 were ages 65 and older, employment of persons with a disability across all age groups was much lower than for those with no disability, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
During these unprecedented times, while some employees have had to acclimate to increased telework and remote-based work activities, numerous other Americans have been furloughed or lost their jobs, however there is a bright side. The U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is turning to apprenticeship programs to help job seekers with disabilities enter the workforce and employers fill much-needed positions.
What is An Apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is defined as a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a trade or profession with on-the-job training and often some accompanying study. Apprenticeships also enable practitioners to gain a license to practice in a regulated profession. Most of the apprentice training is done while working for an employer who helps the apprentices learn their trade or profession, often in exchange for their continued labor for an agreed period after they have achieved measurable competencies.
An apprenticeship is a real job with training and usually last for between one, and sometimes up to six, years depending upon the level of the program. Almost any type of apprenticeship can be made accessible and support is available while you learn and work.
Apprenticeship programs offer young adults, including those with disabilities, a career pathway that provides employment as the individual learns on the job. Doing an apprenticeship is a great way to earn a salary, get training and qualifications and develop your career.
Individuals who successfully complete an apprenticeship program become journey level workers and receive a widely recognized credential of skills attainment.
How do apprenticeships benefit job seekers?
Because apprenticeship combines on-the job training and related classroom instruction with a steady paycheck, it offers an ideal solution for the 68 percent of Americans with disabilities who are job seeking and are engaged in employment-related activities. These activities may include preparing for work and the job search, actively searching for jobs, currently participating in employment, or seeking to improve their employment situation.
Apprenticeship has the potential to solve a modern challenge which has some job seekers sidelined even when demand for talent is high. Driven by the 2017 Executive Order on Expanding Apprenticeships in America, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is committed to increasing opportunities for talent development in the workplace.
An Apprenticeship Provides:
- A pathway from school to work
- A way to get a head start in a chosen career.
- Paid work and structured training that can be on-the-job, off-the-job or a combination of both.
- Competency based – which means you can complete your training faster if you reach the required skills level.
- An apprenticeship leads to recognized qualifications and skills which provide the basis for further education and training over the course of your working life.
- Existing skills and prior experience are recognized and course credit granted, potentially reducing formal training time. Available as full-time or part-time, also available part-time in many schools.
Employers and Disability Apprenticeships
Many employers are still reluctant to hire individuals with disabilities because they lack understanding about their abilities. In addition, they have fears about their responsibilities for providing reasonable accommodations. Yet, employing people with disabilities improves an employer’s bottom line by reducing recruiting and training costs because they are productive capable workers who tend to stay with their employers longer. Also, in many cases, employers can receive tax, wage subsidy, and other benefits for hiring individuals with disabilities.
Quick Facts Regarding Apprenticeships
- Typically an apprenticeship is started at age of 15 and 18 after finishing general education. Some apprenticeships have a recommend or required age of 18. There is formally no maximum age, however for persons above 21 it is hard to find a company due to companies preferring younger ages due to the less cost of labor costs.
- The modern concept of an internship is similar to an apprenticeship.
- In Canada, each province has its own apprenticeship program.
- The system of apprenticeship first developed in the later Middle Ages and came to be supervised by craft guilds and town governments.
- The distinction between the terms apprentices and trainees lies mainly around traditional trades and the time it takes to gain a qualification.
- Apprenticeship programs in the United States are regulated by the Smith-Hughes Act (1917), The National Industrial Recovery Act (1933), and National Apprenticeship Act, also known as the “Fitzgerald Act.”
- Apprentices mobility is the movement of students and teachers in Vocational education or training (VET) to another institution inside or outside their own country to study or teach for a limited time. The term is usually used in the context of European Union (EU) policy.
Information on Disability Apprenticeships
Apprenticeship programs in the United States are regulated by the Smith-Hughes Act (1917), The National Industrial Recovery Act (1933), and National Apprenticeship Act, also known as the “Fitzgerald Act.”
U.S. Disability Apprenticeship Information & Fact Sheets.
Learn more about apprenticeships:
To learn more about apprenticeship programs, check out the following resources:
- Apprenticeship.gov, the one-stop source for all things apprenticeship sponsored by the Department of Labor.
- ODEP’s Apprenticeship page, which links to toolkits, guides, and other resources on inclusive programs and models.
- “Apprenticeship Works” video series, which demonstrates how apprenticeship can work for everyone.