Inclusive Apprenticeship Programs: Bridging the Technology Skills Gap

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Graphic that reads Inclusive Apprenticeship Programs: Bridging the Technology Skills Gap
By Josh Christianson

Today, far too many people with disabilities who want to work are not working, even in high-growth industries facing labor shortages, such as information technology (IT). Put simply, we have job openings, and we have motivated people to fill them. The critical link is job training. Read between the lines and you’ll find a promising solution: technology apprenticeships for people with disabilities.

For those of us at the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), apprenticeship programs are a priority focus area. Combining classroom-based learning with on-the-job training, they are a proven way for companies to quickly bring new and more diverse talent onto their teams.

This is especially so in the technology industry, which is particularly primed to lead the way on inclusive apprenticeships. According to Code.org, there are currently 528,174 open computing jobs nationwide, but last year only 49,291 computer science students graduated into the workforce. Occupational projections show that these technology-focused job openings will only continue to grow.

Add to that gap the industry’s acute shortage of accessibility skills—that is, the knowledge and training needed to design and develop software, apps, websites and devices that everyone can use, including people with disabilities. A recent study we conducted with Teach Access underscored this critical skills gap, with 60 percent of respondents reporting that it is “difficult or very difficult” to find job candidates with the accessibility skills that their organization needs.

Because people with disabilities often have personal experience and knowledge regarding accessible technology, they are uniquely positioned to play a key role in closing this skills gap. Numerous technology employers are recognizing the value that people with disabilities bring to the table. Just ask Cisco, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Microsoft, SAP and other companies that have launched initiatives, including apprenticeship programs, to actively recruit and train job candidates with disabilities in order to capitalize on their skills, talents and perspectives.

PEAT wants to see more disability-inclusive apprenticeships in the tech industry, and we’re working with a variety of partners to take action on the issue. This year we launched a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Labor-funded IT apprenticeship intermediary Apprenti to build bridges between the technology industry and inclusive apprenticeship programs. We’re also partnering with Teach Access, a unique collaboration working to infuse accessibility into higher education, while offering enhanced training and collaborations with people with disabilities.

In the quest for talent, an investment in inclusive apprenticeships can pay great dividends in skilled workers and innovation. Visit PEAT’s Apprenticeships page to discover “Six Reasons to Engage in an Apprenticeship Program” and to learn more about the apprenticeship strategy.

About the Author
Josh Christianson is the project director of the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT).

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