Three circles with embedded photos. From left to right: hands typing on a keyboard; three people having a discussion in the workplace; two people collaborating using a tablet. Background watermarks include icons of the outlines of four individuals; an outline of a person pointing to a whiteboard; outlines of two people sitting at a computer.The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is committed to long-term efforts to grow and expand apprenticeships, especially for diverse, underserved and underrepresented communities. Launched in 2020, the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship (PIA), an ODEP-funded project, focused on driving policies and practices to improve access to career pathways and talent pipelines.

PIA fostered access to inclusive apprenticeships for career seekers with disabilities across demographic groups in high-growth, high-demand (HGHD) fields. Its work emphasized key HGHD fields, such as clean energy, information technology (IT), cybersecurity, healthcare and finance.

What is an Inclusive Apprenticeship?

An inclusive apprenticeship is an apprenticeship designed to support full access and inclusion for all apprentices, including people with disabilities. Inclusive apprenticeship programs help widen the talent pool and provide key opportunities for diverse career seekers. These programs help them to attain crucial credentials and sharpen their skills to succeed in their desired careers.

Tony’s Apprenticeship JourneyTony Granillo headshot in combat uniform.

Tony Granillo, who identifies as a person with a disability, served in the Army for 14 years until he suffered multiple traumatic brain injuries. He later joined the Apprenti program to pursue a technology career through an apprenticeship. Apprenti is a non-profit that helps place people from underrepresented groups, including people with disabilities, into technology apprenticeships. Through Apprenti, he secured an apprenticeship with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Within a year, Tony completed his apprenticeship and was offered a full-time position as a solutions architect at AWS.

Read more about Tony’s apprenticeship journey.

The Benefits of Inclusive Apprenticeship

For employers:

  • Inclusive apprenticeships can help employers build diverse, equitable, inclusive and accessible (DEIA) workforces of trained, skilled workers. Employers who invest in hiring disabled people can reap financial advantages and growth.
  • Employers can benefit greatly from hiring disabled job candidates. They often achieve increased revenue, greater retention, attraction of a more diverse customer base and a more inclusive and accessible workplace culture.

For jobseekers:

  • Inclusive apprenticeship programs can help expand access to gainful employment and career paths for diverse career seekers who have a wide range of disability types (e.g., cognitive, neurological, physical, mental health, sensory, etc.).
  • People with disabilities who enroll in inclusive apprenticeship programs can earn wages while they gain on-the-job training and lifelong skills to succeed in high-growth, high-demand fields.

PIA Advanced Inclusion

The project advanced efforts to develop and scale inclusive apprenticeship programs that can enable workers with disabilities to thrive in growing industries. PIA worked with employers and their partners to design programs that meet businesses' most critical hiring needs.

Approaching This Work Through an Intersectional Lens

Disabled people can identify with multiple demographics. Many underrepresented populations have a higher share of people with disabilities than the general population. For example, 1 in 3 Veterans, 1 in 4 Black Americans, 1 in 4 women, 3 in 10 Non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaska Natives, and 2 in 5 state and federal prisoners identify as having a disability. Each year, more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons, meaning that a large portion of people with prior criminal justice system experiences have disabilities as well. The following graphic represents the number of people within each demographic who identify as having a disability:

Five columns representing ratios of individuals in different demographics who identify as having a disability: 1 in 3 Veterans; 1 in 4 Black Americans; 1 in 4 women; 3 in 10 Non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaska Natives; 2 in 5 State and Federal Prisoners.

Employers who create accessible and inclusive workplaces that support hiring, training and retaining people with disabilities, are more likely to attract and retain other underrepresented workers. As a result, companies not only build a pipeline to access untapped talent, but they move closer to achieving their DEIA goals.

PIA showed a commitment to helping employers and apprenticeship partners apply DEIA best practices to their apprentice programs to create career opportunities for people with disabilities.

Apprenticeship programs are a great avenue to train underrepresented workers to enter competitive industries, removing hiring barriers that limit opportunity along the lines of race, color, ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ+ status, religion, disability, age and veteran status.

Designed to support the accessibility and inclusion of disabled people in the workplace, employers and apprenticeship partners can use these resources to help facilitate the hiring process of diverse workers more broadly. For apprenticeship programs to be fully inclusive and accessible, employers and apprenticeship partners should consider intersectionality as they design their programs.

Setting the Stage

PIA set the stage to expand inclusive apprenticeships for disabled people across demographics by:

  • Building Community: PIA brought together employers, their partners, providers of services, advocates and agencies to spur the growth of inclusive apprenticeship programs.
  • Turning Policy into Practice: PIA built on government policies, shared proven models and practices, collaborated with companies that inform state policy and produced policy briefs to support DEIA.
  • Developing Resources: PIA created targeted resources to provide its stakeholders with tools and information to navigate the apprenticeship landscape and develop or enhance inclusive programs.


For Industry Intermediaries, Employers and Their Apprenticeship Partners

For Prospective and Current Apprentices with Disabilities