Equity in Youth Apprenticeships: Access, Inclusion, and Continuous Improvement

The Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship Blog Series
Blog Post
Careerwise Colorado
Jan. 24, 2019

The Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA) released guiding principles for high-quality youth apprenticeship programs. You can read more about each principle and their related outcomes in the full document here. Over the coming weeks as part of its first blog series, members of the partnership will be exploring these principles in-depth and why each is important to both the expansion and quality of youth apprenticeship across the country.

The Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA) provides an exciting opportunity for education, workforce development, business and industry, and public policy partners to work together to identify the key principles, structures, and outcomes necessary to scale up youth apprenticeships in the United States. Youth apprenticeships can provide an effective pathway into a combination of good jobs and strong postsecondary programs that lead to meaningful careers with family-sustaining wages such that Americans can better realize their human, business, and economic potential.

One of the defining principles for high-quality youth apprenticeship is equitable: “learning is accessible to every student, with targeted supports for those adversely impacted by long-standing inequities in our education system and labor market.” This blog post focuses on unpacking three key components of equity: access, inclusion, and continuous improvement in building systems for high-quality youth apprenticeship that lead to greater access and opportunity, and equitable outcomes.

Access: Learning is accessible to every student.

What are key considerations for ensuring that learning is accessible to every student?

First, an equitable youth apprenticeship program, which includes classroom, business, and industry components, is available to every student regardless of location, whether urban, suburban or rural. Students in all settings should have access to some form of transportation from their home to school to the work setting within reasonable times. Programs should also ensure that all students have access to high-speed internet, should their apprenticeship program require it, particularly in rural communities and for those from low-income backgrounds. These are all factors to consider in selecting a youth apprenticeship site that ensures availability and accessibility for every student.

Inclusion: To make learning accessible to every student, programs feature targeted supports for those adversely impacted by long-standing inequities in our education system and labor market.

How will the program’s structure be designed to support students’ diverse needs?

In addition to being accessible to every learner, equitable youth apprenticeship programs are designed to provide access to diverse learners. Programs should support students with disabilities who may require accommodations or modifications to meet their physical, educational, or mental health needs. They should also be inclusive of English language learners. For example, programs should consider translating materials into students’ native languages, or resourcing people who speak these languages at the school and/or the workplace.

In all of these settings, teachers, instructors, counselors, mentors, and administrators should be provided professional learning opportunities to increase their understanding of the ways in which implicit biases create barriers to students’ access and success, and to help support the needs of diverse learners at school and at work.

Inclusion as a key component of equity also ensures that students, as well as the adults in their lives, are aware of their available opportunities through a youth apprenticeship program. This means students should learn about careers and programs not only from K–12 education institutions, but also from the engagement of postsecondary and business and industry partners. Students should be encouraged to consider various career pathways based on their ability, aptitude, and interest instead of based on norms such as gender. Finally, concerns around tracking of students into low-quality vocational programs should be addressed and allayed by youth apprenticeship partners in nurturing trusting, inclusive, and reciprocal relations with family and community members.

Continuous Improvement: Programs are built to continually assess and address equity gaps in the participation, retention, and completion of students.

Youth apprenticeship programs should use data to continually assess and address their progress towards equitable outcomes. Data can be used to identify equity gaps in the participation, retention, and completion of students—especially those underrepresented by gender, and race and ethnicity, and students from special populations[1]—in high-skill, high-wage, and in-demand youth apprenticeship programs. The collection and reporting of disaggregated data at the program level is important in effectively identifying and addressing these equity gaps, as the newly passed Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) requires (visit www.napequity.org/perkinsv for more information on the equity provisions in this new legislation).

This list of considerations, questions, and suggestions, while not exhaustive, can be used as a conversation starter as leaders and organizers work together to identify, develop, and scale up effective youth apprenticeship programs around the country. Youth apprenticeships should be inclusive of the diverse needs and experiences of every learner and be designed in a way that centers equitable outcomes as a key criterion for success. This means that at each stage of planning and implementation, organizers, leaders, practitioners in education, workforce development, and business and industry will need to engage many different stakeholders in the process of asking and addressing how students might fall through the cracks and in providing the necessary supports for them to participate and succeed. This will require intentionality, collaboration, a dedication to continuous improvement, and an unwavering focus on the success of every learner.

[1] Special populations in Perkins V include individuals with disabilities; individuals from economically disadvantaged families, including low-income youth and adults; individuals preparing for non-traditional fields; single parents, including single pregnant women; out-of-work individuals; English learners; homeless individuals; youth who are in, or have aged out of, the foster care system; and youth with a parent who is on active duty in the armed forces.

The National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) is a consortium of state and local agencies, corporations, and national organizations. Through its four lines of business—professional development, technical assistance, research and evaluation, and advocacy—NAPE strives to achieve its mission of building educators’ capacity to implement effective solutions for increasing student access, educational equity, and workforce diversity.

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