Learn more about JFF
Learn more about JFF

Inclusive Program Design

All apprenticeship programs are designed around two core elements: 1) related instruction and 2) on-the-job training. But for apprenticeship programs to deliver quality instruction and skills training to opportunity youth—and provide maximum benefit for employers and apprentices—program designers need to emphasize inclusive practices and consider many variables that come with operating a high-quality and accessible work-based training initiative.

The push for inclusion in apprenticeship stems from the gap between the promise of the apprenticeship model—debt-free education and skills training that starts with a job and leads to a career—and its limited scope and scale—only 0.3 percent of U.S. workers participate in an apprenticeship. Even in 2019, after several years of expansion efforts, most apprenticeships remain limited to the building trades. And even when taking apprenticeships in all sectors into account, almost 90 percent of new apprentices that year were men, and the number of youth and people with disabilities participating in apprenticeship was vanishingly small.

Many states, local areas, industries, and employers have embraced the idea of inclusive apprenticeship to connect opportunity youth and other hard-to-reach populations to employment opportunities. One way to start making apprenticeship more inclusive is to expand and diversify recruitment efforts, but there are many more steps apprenticeship programs can take, such as:

  1. Connecting with pre-apprenticeships or similar preparatory programs that can introduce young people to apprenticeship and set them up for success.

  2. Assessing and updating program content to include universal design for learning considerations.

  3. Offering mentors and instructors additional training focused on opportunity youth and giving them access to needed resources.

  4. Preparing the technology infrastructure and the data reporting and analysis tools necessary to effectively monitor and support program operations.

  5. Giving apprentices access to the tools, facilities, and course materials they need; making sure they have the time, capacity, and other resources necessary to participate; and providing them with access to resources and support to help mitigate challenges.

  6. Making contingency plans that outline the steps staff and administrators should take—including strategies for contacting apprentices at risk of dropping out—if the program is interrupted by unforeseen circumstances, such as a natural disaster or other crisis.

Ultimately, designing an inclusive apprenticeship program means taking the needs of both employers and apprentices into account. Organizations participating in the AEMF effort have adopted a number of strategies, including the three listed below, to make their programs more inclusive and more supportive of opportunity youth. Click below to read more about each one.




Guiding Questions

How could your program become more inclusive and accessible? Could you establish new goals in particular areas that might help you achieve that objective? Here are some areas to consider:

  • Participant recruiting
  • Efforts to target industries, employers, and occupations
  • The design and development of materials, tools, curricula, and activities
  • Strategies to create pathways into apprenticeship and support participants throughout their programs

How might your organization adopt inclusive practices or otherwise model the goals you seek to achieve through opportunity youth apprenticeship? Here are some options to consider:

  • Train relevant staff in inclusive practices and methods
  • Reward inclusive practices
  • Conduct a program accessibility review
  • Sponsor an opportunity youth apprentice
  • Integrate youth voice in program design, governance, and evaluation

What institutions, organizations, or programs could you partner with to enhance your program’s inclusion and accessibility? And how could you do that? Here are examples of organizations you could reach out to:

  • Organizations with specific expertise in opportunity youth or those that offer programs for Black, Latinx, or Indigenous youth, or serve young people with disabilities, young parents, or young people from rural or urban communities
  • Organizations, industries, and employers with expertise or proven success in inclusive and accessible apprenticeship programs, or in other hiring, training, retention, and advancement practices
  • Providers of services that increase accessibility, promote inclusion, or respond to the specific needs of opportunity youth