Apprenticeship programs are jobs that youth with disabilities could enroll in to earn money while developing their skills in a field of interest to them. Programs typically last a few years, and apprentices who complete them earn an average starting salary of $50,000 a year. Historically, there have been many programs in fields like construction and manufacturing, but recently there has been a lot of growth in industries like healthcare and information technology.
Apprenticeship programs are a great opportunity, but many youth with disabilities do not know they exist. Schools should educate transitioning youth about apprenticeships as an alternative to other expensive forms of postsecondary education. Also, employers who sponsor apprenticeships need to connect with the workforce system, VR, schools and community colleges, and other recruitment sources to engage youth with disabilities. Sponsors also need to make sure their program entry standards are not overly restrictive and could support a pre-apprenticeship program to help interested candidates meet the qualifications for the actual apprenticeship. Sponsors should think about how to use Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to make their programs accessible and should also be prepared to provide accommodations. I am a young person with a disability and know of some of my peers with disabilities who would greatly benefit from apprenticeships!