How Apprenticeships Can Benefit Youth With Disabilities

DOLFor many young people, transitioning into adulthood is full of difficulties. Many of these difficulties are related to finding a career path and furthering their education. Luckily, most youth manage to navigate their transition successfully.

However, not everyone is as lucky. The Department of Labor (DOL) states: “Unfortunately, for young people with disabilities, the challenges are greater and the outcomes sometimes less positive.” The statistics  support this statement—youth with disability are half as likely to complete secondary education. Additionally, the employment rate for those with disabilities is “36.9 percent compared to 79.7 percent for people without disabilities.”

These statistics are not meant to be disheartening; rather, they illustrate a need for an increase in awareness about disabilities and programs that support those who are disabled.

Apprenticeship is an opportunity program that the DOL has created to educate and expand participation of youth with disabilities, as well as provide a list of specific apprenticeship opportunities for youth with disabilities in the United States.

Apprenticeship, contrary to many myths, is a desirable opportunity for young adults—it is essentially a pathway to a career that offers employment while simultaneously providing on-the-job training. Currently, the DOL recognizes 950 programs for apprenticeships. This gives youth with disabilities numerous options to choose from, and they are able to start their employment at age 18 (or age 16, depending on the program). The DOL created this program to help bridge the gap between those who do continue on to get a post-secondary education and those who do not. While the apprenticeship is not limited to only those with disabilities, there is much focus on and discussion about increasing the participation of youth with disabilities in apprenticeship programs.

While there are benefits to apprenticeships, including a variety of options and employment training to help bridge the gap between those who attend post-secondary school, there are also some setbacks.

For example, many of the apprenticeship opportunities are in the construction industry, which has two main issues: one, often youth with disabilities do not consider this as a choice because of their disability and two, often employers perceive youth with disabilities as being incapable of being employed in the field of construction. However, youth with disabilities are just as capable as others to perform jobs within the construction industry.

Additionally, no apprenticeship program is perfectly created to work with youth who have disabilities; however, this is a work in progress and there are many apprenticeship programs which already work with youth with disabilities. Currently, more apprenticeship programs are being created in order to include more youth with disabilities in the American labor force.

For those that want to learn more, there are numerous resources listed below which will explain how to get involved in apprenticeship programs, which apprenticeship programs are available, and how youth with disabilities can benefit from these programs.


Photo “Department of Labor Seal” copyright by DonkeyHotey.