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Closing the Divide: Making Illinois a Leader in Equitable Apprenticeships

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Apprenticeships are gaining momentum in Illinois, creating new opportunities for both young adults and employers. This is helpful as a great deal of the jobs in Illinois require more training than a high school degree but less than a college degree. Apprenticeships are one of the few proven strategies for closing the middle-skills gap, and are a pathway for young adults to stable, long-term employment. In response to the promise apprenticeships hold, Illinois has expanded apprenticeships across the state. Through various grants and programs, Illinois committed to increasing the number of women, people of color, opportunity youth, low-income individuals, and others participating in apprenticeships across the fields of manufacturing, health care, and transportation, distribution, and logistics.

Reaching and retaining diverse populations will not happen unless Illinois commits to this outcome, plans accordingly, and builds cross-sector engagement to move that plan forward. Despite the tremendous potential apprenticeships present to the workforce, they have a poor track record of employing women and people of color. Both women’s and people of color’s participation in apprenticeships is disproportionately low relative to their participation in the workforce as a whole. Given that workforce development budgets are increasingly shifting towards apprenticeships, we will leave behind women and people of color unless we ensure we are recruiting and retaining these populations in apprenticeship programs.

In this report, Young Invincibles (“YI”) provides recommendations on how Illinois can create apprenticeships that achieve gender and racial equity. Our recommendations are based on a review of state and local strategies for scaling apprenticeships that serve women and people of color, examining work in various states around the country. YI also identified strong practices within Illinois, learning from the apprenticeship and work-based learning programs of organizations and programs. We vetted our findings with a sizeable group of young adults in five apprenticeship programs in Illinois, ensuring our recommendations drew from their direct experience with these programs. Key actions include:

  • Creating apprenticeship consultants who educate and train employers on best practices for creating inclusive worksites
  • Setting up employers to use recruitment strategies that appeal to diverse audiences
  • Ensuring education partners provide wraparound supports

Closing the Divide:
Making Illinois a Leader in Equitable Apprenticeships

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