“Inclusive Apprenticeships: Shaping Your Community’s Workforce”
Wednesday, July 21, 2021 2:00-3:00 pm ET
Josh Christianson: Thanks for joining us today. We are going to wait just a few more minutes for other people to join. The waiting room has been opened. That is good. I see the numbers taking up. I just saw the clock turn to 2:01 PM. So let’s go ahead and get started.
Welcome and thank you all for being here. My name is Josh Christiansen. I am the project director for the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship. Before I give you more introductions and on to today’s events I will do some housekeeping to include that the closed captioning is here. The link can be found in the chat. There is a CART service available in external links. That was just put into the chat. You can open that up and have a window on the side to follow along, and as a heads up we are recording this webinar. We will be posting the recording and any other resources that we discussed in the following days on our website, and you can stay tuned for that. Speaking of the website. We are excited to be here. This is the first national and public webinar that we have had.
We are the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship. We launched publicly in March, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and Office of Disability Employment Policy, and we are an initiative focused on growing the tool of apprenticeship in ways that people with disabilities can fully participate and be integrated. We have a focus on high growth and high demand and industries, specifically working a lot in the IT sector and also making inroads on the clean energy sector as far as healthcare, finance, cyber security. We even have a partner in human resources knowing that they will be dispersed.
So a little bit about PIA. I don’t like to read bullets, but I will cover them as I can. Creating opportunities. We are going to talk about apprenticeship and the professional opportunities and roads that it creates for people. We are trying to be a collaborative connective tissue amongst those opportunities, so we are working with intermediaries and employers advocacy organizations. Anyone that we can work with and support to provide a resource to help move forward growing any resource tools especially apprenticeship where people with disabilities. We’re willing to help create those opportunities. The second bullet is that we focus on policy. It’s very true. Our office and client is a policy shop. We’re looking for some of the best policies and local state and federal policies that we can push and promote that support the growth of a healthy inclusive apprenticeship and environment. We also work on policy with a small [number of partners] and policies that they implement in their program and in their apprenticeship and program and also aiding in the inclusion of people with disabilities we help there as well. And providing resources. You should check out the URL apprenticeship. So they can drop that into the chat. We will probably do that a few more times for specific resources, but that’s where we share later, and public resources. We just launched in March, so we are slowly building, but there’s a few things we hope you can see and benefit from and know that that list of resources will be growing, and we love to hear from you. If you see there’s gaps or have things to add or are interested in helping to collaborate and develop resources. We can hear from you, and you can contact us. So I think without further ado. I will turn it over. We are very excited. One of our biggest collaborators and partners attest PIA is SPR. Over to you and I look forward to following along.
Vinz Koller: Thanks Josh, and thanks to all of you who have joined us today. We’re excited to be able to talk about the question of inclusive talent and secured inclusive talent locally. Especially at this time in our recovery period coming out of the pandemic. I also wanted to take the opportunity for you to tell us more about yourself, so please tell us who you are in the chat. You can mention your organization that would be terrific. That way we have a sense of who is on the line and also it gets you used to posting questions in the chat. If you have that. Because we’re going to ask you some questions as well. We are excited.
Josh Christianson: This is Josh. Sorry I neglected to say about the chat. Sorry to interrupt just underscoring that. We’ve got a question and answer time for you at the end of the discussion with the panelists. We’re also going to be monitoring the chat throughout the day so feel free to put questions in there; if there are relevant questions, I might interrupt you again and ask you to address it, or we can compile them at the end. Helping to field questions and answers. Feel free to use the chat to ask questions and we will continue to provide resources there as the webinar goes.
Vinz Koller: I think Jessica and others, so I know we have some friends on the line. That is to benefit. I’m excited today to be joined by a few local practitioners. First of all Paula Fryer who is the director of SLO partners. That stands for San Luis Obispo County. Prior she managed the relationship with the business community to meet their hiring needs while creating career pathways. She does it inclusively and focuses on bringing women into the tech field in a place where one might not think that San Luis Obispo is a tech hub. That is a part of a mystery question as to how that happens and how the challenge acquisition works. Unfortunately she’s not joining or won’t be joined today by the founder, but she’s also a force of inclusion in her own right, so we are excited to have her here. Also we will hear from Diamond Williams. The education and employment specialist at New Orleans legendary Café reconcile where she runs an inclusive apprenticeship program that is meant to address the system of generational poverty. Reconciling students who arrive facing an array of challenges. The program is meant to address all of them in an inclusive way. So quite a different approach and circumstances. We are trying to show a range with those two programs that are represented here today. And moving onto the next slide.
Just setting the stage of the bit of where we find ourselves. We are in an interesting situation, one that most of us to absorb the labor market a year ago it may not have anticipated. Before Covid the demand for talent was very high. The supply in many areas was limited. It was a jobseekers market if you have the right skills and you could make the connection. Which admittedly is pretty significant caveats. Unemployment was at its lowest for people with disabilities as well. Yet, it was still triple the unemployment rate without disabilities. Then Covid hit. It hit people with disabilities harder than the general population. The problem wasn’t so much that these workers were targeted for layoffs but that they are disproportionately employed for industries that have been hammered like clothing stores, food services and hospitality. It was nearly half the jobs that disappeared and there is also more likely this to be an entry-level position. It takes longer generally speaking for people with disabilities to find work. There are among the most senior workers in the first to be laid off. So now fast-forwarding to today. The good news is that in many places we have the talent shortage again; this should create favorable conditions for those who are seeking work. Also a shortage of talent is good for those groups who usually have a hard time finding work. Once again we are experiencing this paradox where employers reporting a shortage of talent and jobseekers are reporting a shortage of opportunities. For many people it means that they have to switch professional industries. We can hear more about that — how they have to adapt to the circumstances that the pandemic brought, and it means usually or often acquiring a new skill set. Employers are looking for skilled talent. That’s precisely what apprenticeship comes in.
There’s something about apprenticeship that is unmatched as an approach to talent development and you might ask why. What is so different about apprenticeship? This will allow you to put in the chat any reason you might see from your experience or your wish list that puts apprenticeship in a special position. You can argue with me and disagree on the positioning going to represent here. I think of it as the three ages of apprenticeship.
It’s hyper local because there’s a job there and there’s no apprenticeship. It’s only a few people getting a job in that occupation because the training institution is calculated, the demand for the demand changed radically from the beginning of the training program to the end. That hardly ever happens but there are some exceptions. That’s why we call it hyper local.
It’s hyper customized because no two apprenticeship experiences are the same. Of the training experiences customized to the needs of the employer and the trainee and that given position. It can easily be adjusted and training experiences, especially apprenticeship, that can easily be sped up or slowed down.
And for all those reasons apprenticeships are potentially hyper inclusive as well. We all know that everybody learns differently and has a different need for support. Apprenticeship shines periods but adaptability. However, I said it was potentially hyper inclusive for a reason. Many full-time apprenticeship programs have not been all that inclusive in the past. The majority of where they happen for the last eight decades or so has not always been models of inclusivity. Nevertheless it doesn’t diminish the extraordinary capacity of the apprenticeships. Especially as it applies across a wide range of nontraditional apprenticeship applications to be inclusive.
I’m just excited to move right into hearing are two sites. As I mentioned we’re going to San Luis Obispo County. First where we visit the Ticket into Tech Program and whether comparing tech talent and far away from the major tech hub in the state. The program is a part of the county office of education and let me stop there to help Paula give you some more detail. Let’s start with Paula, and you can tell us a little bit about your program. Perhaps emitted to the pandemic.
Paula Mathias-Fryer: First of all, let me tell you a little bit of how I got to be the director. I was head of HR in recruiting for a local software company here in San Luis Obispo. We are located directly in between Los Angeles and San Jose, even though we are a rural area in this strange pocket that’s absolutely beautiful. We are on the coast. It’s quiet and gorgeous as far as industry goes. We do have a tech industry, getting out of the rat race and the big city. So if you haven’t been to San Luis Obispo you should definitely visit. It is absolutely gorgeous. I was ahead of HR and recruiting for a software company. I was actually one of the first employees of a startup, and after 10 years ended up hiring about 75 people and growing the company. After hiring 10 developers. I looked around and everybody was the same. We had a local university here, Cal Poly, so I hired guys straight out of college to work for us. I became interested in why there weren’t more women. I was wondering why there weren’t more female applicants for every developer tech roles. So I took a deep dive into that and learned so much about girls and education. How the education goes where they drop off in the science and math industry. Why they are not more computer science majors, and things like that. I just found out a lot about women in tech basically. Because tech obviously has so much to offer for people in those professions, we hired about five apprentices who went through having the software development group. We went to the parties and down the road later on when this position became upon me. They offered it to me. It was a great opportunity and something you know that’s where my passion lies. Just diversifying that workforce, so that’s what SLO Partners focuses on. Was head of house jobs, because we live in an expensive area so what SLO partners does is get people into those roles where they can become those head of household income earners they want to find jobs they can stay here if they choose to. So that people who are living here can have a good life, rent a house or buy a house or whatever they want to do. We do both — with both economic developments to attract more industry then also to provide that skilled talent.
Vinz Koller: Thanks, we’re going to get back to how you bring people in and how you really focus on helping individuals who may not see themselves in those roles and how they can grow into them. You get back to that.
So just like every organization we were running along on our pathway we had this huge speed bump, just like everyone. But we were able and priding ourselves to be agile to pivot, we pride ourselves in being able to do that so we really shifted to upscaling and rescaling people. Encouraging people who maybe got laid off or maybe they were in a role that wasn’t their passion. We created this opportunity for people who are out of work or people who weren’t satisfied with their job in the first place to try something new. We looked at it like a new opportunity almost and three really grew because of Covid. Our necessity in the community grew leaps and bounds. It was really great to see. Started a new camp in digital marketing and that came directly out of the business. Especially small business and economic development because we had to be able to connect with the customer whether opened or closed. If you needed a mask or whatever it was, we had to connect with the customer. They pivot and help the community to get back on their feet as far as businesses go.
Vinz Koller: So the counter cyclical circumstance we might think this slows down but it turns out that maybe it didn’t matter quite as much in this period because 70 people worked from home. We can get back to that as well but it’s a great way to get into what made this last 12 months or 18 months so usual. So moving to New Orleans to Café reconcile. Diamond. Your program operates apprenticeship programs and New Orleans knows a thing or two about recovery. You were also hit with the pandemic in the food service and that’s an easy place to be so tell us about your program, what makes it so unique and how did you get to the pandemic.
Diamond Williams: Hello everyone I’m Diamond. I’m an employment education specialist at Café reconcile. I’m happy to be here talking to everyone today. So Café Reconcile is a workforce development program specifically hospitality centered. We run a fully operational Café and focus a lot on employee scale. Any scale that keeps our interns working both now and in the future. We also take a holistic approach and mental health as well as resiliency training. We have counselors and social workers on staff that help us to bring a more well-rounded approach to what successful employability and employment look like. The program focuses on opportunities between the ages of 16 and 24 that are typically underrepresented groups especially in the New Orleans community and as an added challenge, some of them might also be experiencing a misdiagnosis in disability or be undiagnosed altogether. Or be diagnosed and lack the resources that they need in order to live a life of independence or sustain employment. The way we go about all the intakes and recruitments that we do is to make sure that anybody essentially between the age of 16 and 24 is able to come into the program and addressing the concerns of the barriers that they experience once they are in the program. We don’t … well before Covid we did an 8 to 12-week program for anybody who came in. Six different classes. Cohorts would be there from 8 to 12 weeks then we would connect employment or apprenticeship. We’ve tried to implement and have been focusing on skills training. Had entered the workforce even though they don’t all learn at the same level and they will not all experience the same things when it is time for them to be connected to the employers. It’s competency and benchmark based where they learn a set of skills that advance them to the tears. It offers additional pathways outside of hospitality. This is important especially during Covid because it was a complete shutdown in a lot of ways our tourism and hospitality industry is still recovering. Just offering those different options, you can provide them alternative pathways to full-time employment. Just making sure as we go on this journey from more inclusive tier models.
Vinz Koller: Great let me stay with you for a follow-up question about how you major program a little more all-inclusive. Coming from the program that had different levels of both disclosed disabilities. How did you go about being more inclusive? How did they find you and what they needed perhaps to determine what the supports were that were needed and find the right way to connect them to whoever is involved in that process?
Diamond Williams: In the beginning of the program we took a more inclusive approach. If it’s available it’s for anybody between 16 and 24 port regardless of the barriers they are experiencing. We still have the conversation about what the program is and what we can offer them. Our social services team and our licensed professional counselors do a psychosocial assessment upon entry into the program that better assesses the need. We use it as a tool to figure out where they are and what resources they might need. From there we do our skills-based training and offer accommodations for whoever needs it. So whether the challenge is a learning disability or a physical disability. We tailor our programming in order to accommodate them to get the skills they need. Even if it means doing a serve safe food application it’s a benchmark for them completing Tier 1. So if that means instead of doing online tests or virtual tests we have to offer that test in person. From there we also might need to offer it verbally. Having somebody read the questions to that; we would also do that. Tier model accommodates for how quickly or how long it takes for them to learn the skills themselves. We don’t push anybody out of the program because they have trouble learning the skill. We offer additional accommodations based on what it is that we learn and what we see from and turn themselves. We also offer different pathways, so if you don’t feel comfortable in the kitchen or if there’s something preventing you from being in the kitchen. Then that means you can still be front of house and there are skills to be learned there as well as positions that can be beneficial but they can do based on a reasonable accommodation. It’s a huge part of this tier model allowing people to learn at their own progress to be inclusive in not allowing a barrier that would be a reason to not let them in the program and to keep them in the program. Talking about partners that we have to help to do that we work very closely with the job one. And bear with me if there’s so many acronyms. That’s connected with LRS. Together they offer apprenticeships outside the hospitality industry if we have an intern who says being in a restaurant is not their thing and while they have gained skills and been what does it is a time where it is now with them to figure out what is best for them moving forward. They not only help us with identifying pathways but also educational pathways. There’s a program called the post secondary apprenticeship or the paycheck program that’s offered to the LSU human development Center it is a program where they take postsecondary courses at the local institution and ours is it down.out community college. They take those courses in their area of interest and complete an 8 to 10 week apprenticeships. We recently had an intern who went on to a role in that program who specifically wanted to do tech and video game design so we transitioned him to that pathway to accommodate the needs. And hospitality those partnerships are instrumental for ensuring that interns know there are pathways that are available to them regardless of the challenges that they face.
Vinz Koller: We touched on something important that I haven’t thought about. The idea that you also end up being a gateway to other programs, and there has to be opportunities for crossing over when you realize that somebody comes into your program and they really are suited for something else so being able to make that referral is terrific. Going back to San Luis Obispo County. Paula mentioned the need for expanding the talent pool for the tech industry. Curious to what extent you’re working to help participants who come to you, see themselves in roles that they may not have models to follow in their circle of friends or what have you. Also curious maybe as a follow-up question. What is needed in order to get employers to buy and to that. Because they might not see that either. Both sides are more willing to be all-inclusive.
Paula Mathias-Fryer: We work with the employers. Employers want a diverse workforce, but it takes extra effort and a lot of employers don’t understand that. Because I came from that industry as a recruiter. It took me a lot more effort to get a talent pool other than just hiring somebody straight out of college. Things like writing a job description that appeals to more people. They always say if there is a job description and a man matches 60% and a woman is to match like 99 things. By writing a job description that has collaboration and creativity just making it a little more open, educating our employers on things like communicating – that it does take a little more than an effort, but it’s very worthwhile to have that diverse workforce. So also we talk about thinking about out-of-the-box hiring. So looking at things like apprenticeship being open-minded to those different educational opportunities. For those types of things that’s where we start. For apprenticeships, getting a more diverse amount of people applying. We have really been focused. When I was a tech recruiter I had this recipe, everything that goes out in SLO partners now has pictures of all different kinds of people. Personally it’s so important for people to see themselves in a role. The way we can do that is advertising, marketing and effort. One thing we discovered is like the job descriptions. When Eric graduates come out of some of our training programs like software development, they will say I am not ready for an apprenticeship. I need to keep learning more before I read it as at times the men said I’m ready for jobs. We developed a mentorship program that boosts their competence. I’m seeing the jobs that they want it’s critical no matter what we’re talking about for diversity and inclusivity. The key is for them to be able to see themselves in the role and be able to understand that there’s other people who’ve gone through their situation and have come out doing great jobs in the end.
Vinz Koller: Staying on that team for a moment. You mentioned the use of new methods to reach people. Just curious how that played into preaching individuals who might not have seen or been on the bulletin boards to traditionally be recruited into the program. What was your thinking. How did you go about it? What were the results?
Paula Mathias-Fryer: We recruit most of our apprentices from Facebook. Is an introductory testimonial about graduates and students. All of those things work with the Facebook algorithm. I can tell you what the secret sauce is: figuring out the bigger outreach for our residents. We diversify our social media from Instagram. There’s some, more women use Instagram so that outreach there we just started using YouTube videos. Say you have this precision manufacturing bit, an apprenticeship that we do. Somebody in our area YouTube’s how to change a light switch they CR video about it, so a lot of visual advertising goes and everything that we do.
Vinz Koller: Have you had a sense of how much of your recruitment works for that channel? Is that we are currently putting your program? It’s a great way to go for social media channels.
You mentioned the network that you’ve worked with the scope of what they can do on their own, can you describe the partnerships and how you built that. I can imagine that for those out there who were thinking about doing it there might also be a sense of “what do I do for the needs that come my way to exceed the capacity of the organization.?” So tell us how you went about this and how these partnerships come about and what kind of arrangements you’re working with.
Diamond Williams: It’s a small community so we’re finding more than anything that someone who might be enrolled in Café Reconcile now or has been in the past is also signed up for services for the community partners. A lot of it becomes very referral based when referring someone to us for the first time or if someone that we’ve been connected with is interested in their program or has been before. Sent enrollment, facilitating those enrollments, and cross enrollments. Essentially it requires us to work together with workforce development organizations to work together on how to best identify practices that make enrollment more easy and leverage the resources that we all have to help our interns and help the people who need it. A lot of it is collaboration between agencies, and we also collaborate with our employment partners. Or the other way we become connected to the individuals who need the training. Be LRA also works closely with jobs one to do their apprenticeship program as well. We get a lot of interest based on the hospitality aspect of our workforce development program and we also have our employment partners who we’ve worked with in the past two we provide additional training to as a part of our memo of understanding how the relationship that we have. Meaning they are committed to doing four hours of training per year on inclusive practices.
Vinz Koller: For racial equity and pay benefits for policies and procedures in the workplace that help to reduce the barriers to improve equity in the workplace. Curious what type of barriers you see among employers. Paula, you worked on the employer side yourself to what extent are there barriers that you have to overcome four more inclusive approaches and how to do that. What are the strategies that you found to work in that arena?
Paula Mathias-Fryer: It can definitely be difficult. It takes extra effort. It’s not your run of the mill recruiting process. It takes extra effort to figure out how to attract the diverse people to apply for your jobs or apprenticeships. It’s problem-solving. You really have to dedicate time to figure out when you during your social media outlook if it’s different wording. It just takes time. Having the support from the top of the organization is very helpful. Having the buy-in to understand it takes time and money to do something like that. It’s always a challenge but, from what I’ve seen it’s imperative for successful initiative. Just having that from the top down. Having somebody have your back and understand it’s going to take extra time to accomplish those goals. It is a part of the cell. If you have some peer-to-peer contact among employers to reach out to other employers. It might be more likely than listening to somebody else say I had a good experience, “Here’s my new shop manager that has been hired to my apprenticeship program.” Just wondering to what extent that peer to peer recruitment works.
About a year ago we started an advisory committee. Those are industry experts in our community. So whether they are the VP of software development or HR for a manufacturing company here, they are on apprenticeship and they do a lot of great outreach for us. His peers telling the businesses has worked for us. It’s been helpful in gaining those milestones for reaching the goals.
Vinz Koller: What about your organization, Diamond? What’s been the secret sauce trying to get other employers to be willing to hire people who they may not have thought of before as being “the talent”?
Diamond Williams: Like Paula was saying. We get the same concerns. It’s just the extra effort. The way we overcome that is by modeling and by wanting to see from her employment partners having partners be a part of the process for mock interviews and conducting interviews to come into the Café so they have the opportunity to meet at the end turned to see their skills and actions to see how it works in the Café at a restaurant setting. And the thing we offer for support is up to one year after. We say one year but we have a lot of interns to graduate from Reconcile. What other the intern is facing at the time were able to assist in getting them the resources to overcome. If it’s mental health resources. We got a community partnership, so what they can do in their own setting in the support of the intern while they’re employed is the secret sauce if you will.
Other stories or anecdotes where you say here’s a lightbulb went on. I would [share] another thought they could hire this person to say look at this look at what happened. Other stories out there.
For us, especially in the hospitality industry, getting ready for it. We’ve had an intern who came to us, and she said she came into the program and has been in other programs and hadn’t reached a level to where she could see her self-sustaining employment. So we went to this. Strength was in front of the house. Love talking to people, a leader in her own right you just allowed her the space and the opportunity is kind of like a standup meeting.
Vinz Koller: So this is an example of somebody who has the team on their side, is already established. Connecting to employment and allowing the opportunity to grow. There was a similar situation, but we’re seeing is when they have the supports in place when they have the different connections in the community that they are able to be successful. What are some of the experiences you’ve had?
Paula Mathias-Fryer: I’m going to put our YouTube channel into the chat but we’ve got some really great testimonials on their. Those are what work best for us. Hearing peers talk about their successes. I will link this in the chat. Connor was a born and raised small-town person who went to high school here and could never quite find what he wanted to do.’s and told them about that and he did our software DEV boot camp and apprenticeship and in his testimonial he talks about how before he took the training he was a lifeguard making like $15 an hour and now he’s the software data analysis person working $35 per hour. Those testimonials in the collateral that we contain and share will speak volumes and I love to hear all the stories. We had a couple who went to the training doing IT and they
Vinz Koller: For self-sustaining careers in California are hard to come by so this makes a lot of sense. Since apprenticeship is about mentorship, do you have ways in which you help employers to become better at mentoring, and is there something that you have to do to help the employer mentorship be aware of this more diverse set of training that they’re working with? How can you help them to be better employers?
Paula Mathias-Fryer: For us we focus on making sure that employers understand that these are people coming in at the entry level and a part of the apprenticeship is still learning. So communicating that they do need a mentor and a supervisor mentioning that upfront. Making sure that’s very clear. We also do a competency survey during the apprenticeship. We send out a general survey asking five or 10 questions about where they are and how they’re doing. That opens the door for us to find out how things are going to make sure that mentorship is happening. Try to stay in good contact to get testimonials for how they are doing. I think a good communication on both sides of the employer and the apprentice is key in order to keep the learning and the mentorship going.
Vinz Koller: That’s great. What about you, Diamond? Any tips for mentoring. Participants. How do you institutionalize good mentorship?
Diamond Williams: It’s about being upfront about what are the expectations. One expectation that we have when we sit down with her employment partners is that they agree with us and our philosophy that these interns have something to offer their community and that they deserve to be a part of the community to offer their skills and their talents. That’s the foundation philosophy of what we do at Café reconcile. That’s huge in addition to the training that we offer them and of course just doing our best to let them know about the opportunities that we have for them to participate in programming either through mock interviews are cooking demonstrations. We invite them to our graduation as well and recently restarted during open houses so inviting them to the open house as well is an example of who it is we partner with and what interns can expect when they are coming in. As well as the caliber partners they can expect to work with.
Vinz Koller: That’s fantastic. We’ve learned a lot and I appreciate all the things that you shared. There’s a lot of good stuff in the chat a lot of links have been posted including is this being recorded in the answer to that is yes. Because there are so many links in the chat. Take a look at the click on what you can. Come back to the recording to show the resources that we’ve shared. I think there’s one more slide. You can visit the resource page mentioned about inclusive apprenticeship and you can follow PIA on Twitter. There are some podcasts, so by all means, I should mention, and I hope perhaps Lauren will put this into the chat. There’s a quick feedback survey we’d like you to complete as well so thank you for joining us. Thank you to Debbie and to all of you out there in the audience. There’s the chat. Thanks for posting. A big thank you to Diamond and Paula. Thank you for sharing your expertise on how you model, mentor, and build these pathways to offer people into career fields.
Thank you so much. Thanks and goodbye everybody.