July 28, 2020
Designed well, youth apprenticeships can be a critical equity strategy to reduce social inequality and support economic mobility. By increasing access to valuable, affordable postsecondary and industry-recognized credentials and opportunities to gain paid work experience, mentorship, and social capital, youth apprenticeship positions high school students to transition successfully into good jobs and higher education.
But in order to deliver on this promise, youth apprenticeship programs must take steps to mitigate programmatic and structural barriers that unfairly limit access and opportunity by gender, income, disability, and—most starkly—race. Doing so requires program leaders to recognize inequities embedded within their education and workforce practices, policies, and systems and to develop targeted strategies—both programmatic and systemic—to address and dismantle them.
Recognizing the importance of designing and implementing inclusive youth apprenticeship programs, the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship established Equity as one of its five Principles for High-Quality Youth Apprenticeship. The principle asserts that, in order for a youth apprenticeship program to be considered high quality, it must:
- Be intentionally designed to acknowledge and address local equity challenges
- Provide targeted student support services to ensure equitable representation and success across all industries involved in the program
- Expand opportunity and lead to improved education and employment outcomes.
In short, youth apprenticeship programs must be accessible to every student who wants to participate and they must provide targeted supports—before and throughout the apprenticeship experience—to ensure the success of those adversely impacted by long-standing inequities in our education systems and labor market. Leaders from K-12 systems, higher education, employers and other key members of youth apprenticeship partnerships all play critical roles in designing and delivering programs that lead to more equitable outcomes and expanded opportunities for youth.
To assist leaders in building and scaling equitable youth apprenticeship programs, the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE), in partnership with the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA), has developed a new toolkit, Equity in Youth Apprenticeship Programs. In addition to outlining concrete strategies for eliminating program and structural barriers that limit access and success, the toolkit examines three key drivers for ensuring youth apprenticeship programs lead to equitable opportunities and outcomes:
Designing and implementing more equitable youth apprenticeship programs by recognizing how stereotypes, implicit biases, and negative micromessages prevent students from fully accessing youth apprenticeship opportunities;
Creating recruitment, training, implementation, supports, and evaluation strategies that ensure youth apprentices feel not just that they are included in youth apprenticeship programs, but that they belong and can thrive;
Using data to inform and monitor program reforms aimed at enabling all students - regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, or religion - to fully participate and succeed in youth apprenticeship.
Education and workforce leaders — at both the program and policy levels — have an obligation to dismantle potential barriers to student access and success in youth apprenticeship. The readings, discussions, and activities in this toolkit are designed to equip youth apprenticeship program leaders with skills and knowledge to begin this process and to collaborate with partners to build more equitable youth apprenticeship opportunities for young adults in their communities.
To stay up to date on the activities of the PAYA Grantees and Network, visit newamerica.org/paya or stay connected to the initiative’s progress by following the #PAYA hashtag on Twitter at @NewAmericaEd.
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