JFF, a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems, today announced that its Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning has received $13 million in new funding from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to grow the country’s capacity to offer diverse and inclusive Registered Apprenticeships. Through this cooperative agreement, JFF will provide direct, hands-on training and support to employers, education and training providers, and community organizations to help them increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in U.S. apprenticeships.
“While apprenticeship is a time-honored and effective strategy for workforce development, we also recognize the need to retool and redesign historic practices for new workforce realities—and address longstanding disparities in employment and economic advancement,” said Maria Flynn, president and CEO of JFF. “This work is about helping to ensure that the Registered Apprenticeship model can fulfill its historic promise and better reflect the vast diversity of the American worker today.”
Research has long shown that apprenticeship is an effective approach to building a skilled labor force and creating pathways to long-term employment, but apprenticeship has not benefited all members of the workforce equitably. For example, although women make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force, in 2020 they accounted for just 9.2 percent of all active apprentices according to federal data. While Black and Latinx workers and other people of color participate in apprenticeships at rates comparable to their respective shares of the overall workforce, their program completion rates are lower than those of white apprentices. And those who do finish receive lower wages and experience other less favorable employment outcomes than their white counterparts.
To identify and scale more equitable approaches to apprenticeship, JFF will conduct research and analysis to identify shortcomings in the program designs, enrollment methods, and advancement practices that employers and apprenticeship providers currently use. The organization will also offer training and technical assistance to apprenticeship providers and develop field-facing tools, resources, and educational content.
The DOL funding will specifically enable JFF to provide direct technical assistance to employers, educators, and community-based organizations that are leading efforts to diversify apprenticeship by recruiting more women and members of other populations that are currently underrepresented in work-based learning programs. This work will include efforts to develop high-quality pre-apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, and other programs that offer people pathways into Registered Apprenticeship programs.
“As we work to make the promise of apprenticeship accessible and open to more population groups, it’s critical that we continue to not only expand access and representation, but also take steps to ensure greater equity in employment and wage outcomes,” said Eric Seleznow, senior advisor at JFF’s Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning. “We have an opportunity to design apprenticeship and work-based learning programs for every American community, especially those who have historically been excluded from such opportunities and those that felt the impact of the pandemic-driven economic crisis most acutely.”
To scale the reach and impact of the new apprenticeship expansion program, JFF has assembled a national network of employers, nonprofits, and education and training providers that includes the following organizations:
- The Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions: A research and support organization for Minority Serving Institutions
- Chicago Women in Trades: A nonprofit that advances gender equity in apprenticeship nationally
- Intelligent Partnerships: A Seattle-based strategic planning firm specializing in inclusive design
- The South Carolina Technical College System: A network of 16 technical colleges in South Carolina, where a quarter of the adult workforce is Black
- The Apprentice School: A nationally recognized apprenticeship program founded in 1919 at Newport News Shipbuilding to prepare workers for careers in skilled shipbuilding trades
- OneTen: A coalition of over 50 of the nation’s largest companies committed to hiring and advancing Black talent without 4-year degrees into family-sustaining jobs
- UnidosUS: A policy, research, and advocacy group focused on Latino issues, including workforce
- The Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston: A research and training organization that supports the rights of people with disabilities to participate in all aspects of society
- Donna Lenhoff Associates: Legal experts on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy and practices for Registered Apprenticeship programs
“A growing number of employers are recognizing that apprenticeship is not only a powerful strategy for talent and workforce development, but also can be an important lever for improving equity in employment outcomes,” said Maurice Jones, CEO of OneTen. “OneTen looks forward to seeing this collaboration expand access to and participation in apprenticeships and design new models that lead to more equitable employment and advancement outcomes.”
Launched in 2017, the Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning provides resources, training, network, and advisory services to employers, policymakers, and workforce development organizations as part of JFF’s strategic offerings. For more information, visit JFF’s Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning.