Episode 22: How Apprenticeship Programs Can Help Employers Recruit and Retain Diverse Talent

Donna Lenhoff headshotDonna Lenhoff, attorney, advisor, policy architect, and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) policy implementer, discusses the benefit of registered apprenticeships and the impact of public policy. She also weighs in on nondiscrimination regulations that support and encourage apprenticeship programs to recruit, train, and retain a diverse talent pool that includes people with disabilities.


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:00:00.47] Data is so important. And we talk about this a lot with Chief People Officers, heads of HR, and then the diversity, equity and inclusion leaders that we have on the podcast. Like we need the information, the data so that we can create a baseline and have put together a plan and a strategy to help improve diversity efforts and also invite more employees, candidates into these programs. And that goes for apprenticeships too.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:00:27.53] Right. You know, as the old saying goes, you, you can’t make change to something you can’t measure.

Intro: [00:00:35.51] Welcome to the Workology podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrill, founder of Workology.com as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends, tools and case studies for the business leader, HR and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:01:01.36] This episode of the Workology podcast is part of a podcast series powered by the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship, or PIA. PIA is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy, or ODEP. In November of 2020, ODEP launched PIA to ensure all apprenticeship programs are inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities. PIA collaborates with employers and apprenticeship programs to help meet employer talent needs and enable people with disabilities to benefit from apprenticeships that increase their opportunities for lifelong access to high- growth, high-demand jobs. Before I introduce our podcast guest, I want to hear from you. Please text the word podcast to (512) 548-3005. Ask me questions, leave comments and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. Today I am so excited because we are joined by Donna Lenhoff, attorney, advisor, writer and policy architect who has worked for over 40 years for progressive employment law and policy as an advocate for women’s and workers’ rights before the executive, legislative and judicial branches of federal and state government and, more recently, as a policy implementer within the United States Department of Labor or DOL.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:02:19.91] Currently, Donna leads Donna Lenhoff and Associates, providing legal and technical assistance to registered apprenticeship, RA programs, and other RA stakeholders on implementing diversity, equity and inclusion and accessibility requirements. She also serves as a senior consultant to the Chicago Women in Trades, or CWIT, advocating for federal policies and operations that promote equitable inclusion of women in construction and manufacturing trades. Appointed by the U.S. Labor Secretary, Marty Walsh, Donna represents CWIT on the Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship. Now, from 2017 to 2020, Donna worked first as an employee and then as a consultant with the DOL’s Office of Apprenticeship on implementing the Equal Employment Opportunity Regulations that govern registered apprenticeships and their programs. From 2011 to 2017, she served as a senior Civil Rights advisor to the Director of the DOL Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, or OFCCP. In that capacity, she led the initiatives to update the OFCCP’s sex discrimination regulations and to strengthen OFCCP’s enforcement in the construction industry. Amazing, right? Donna, I’m so excited to have you here. Welcome to the Workology podcast.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:03:42.29] Thank you. I’m really excited to be here, Jessica. Thanks for having me.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:03:46.22] Absolutely. And I am, I mean, really, I’m like amazed at your background and all the work that you have done and the work that you’re working in now. So let’s talk a little bit, maybe tell us about your background and what led you to your current role now as a legal and technical consultant in so many different areas?

Donna Lenhoff: [00:04:05.38] Well, you know, I’m trained as a lawyer, and soon after I got out of law school, I had the chance to work in my dream job, which was to work for the Women’s Legal Defense Fund on advancing women’s employment rights. So I did that for over 20 years. The Women’s Legal Defense Fund changed its name. I went from the first staff attorney to the first general counsel, but I was always working in this field and always really interested, not just in sex discrimination, but how that interacted with race discrimination, disability discrimination and, really, labor law in general, and also really interested in how the regulations and requirements around equal employment opportunity actually get written up by the government and then implemented by employers. And, in this case. by registered apprenticeship programs. So when I went into the Labor Department, I was really interested in trying to make these things work on the ground because there’s a big distance between, you know, when Congress writes the law and how it actually gets implemented. And I feel like I was really lucky to be able to take that interest into the apprenticeship field, which I knew nothing about, but they had just, the Office of Apprenticeship within the Department of Labor, had just updated their Equal Employment Opportunity regulations. They were finally published in 2016, and then the people who knew about them and had worked on them, as it happened, retired from or left or got promoted from the office of, from the positions they’d been in and the Office of Apprenticeship needed somebody who knew something about equal employment opportunity to help them implement their new regs. So I ended up going over there and doing a detail and it turned into really a sort of a passion project for me.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:06:19.70] I love hearing about your, your background and the transition to apprenticeships. So, maybe for the audience, can you talk briefly about the benefits of apprenticeships to employers and underrepresented workers, including people with disabilities and those employers?

Donna Lenhoff: [00:06:37.40] Well, the benefits to employers are, number one, they get to devise a structured, certified training program for their, for new employees, or it can be for their incumbent employees, so that they’re training people in what they want, need the people to be able to know. But, at the same time, it’s been kind of blessed by, by people who know, really understand about on-the-job training and how that works with related classroom instruction, you know what, when does one need algebra to be a carpenter and how does one build those skills so that a carpenter working for a particular employer has the skills that that employer needs? And the other thing that employers get, that I think is really important, is it’s a pathway into jobs that are often hard to fill. The construction trades and their, their counterparts in manufacturing, much of that workforce is retiring. And so we need those people, need to be replaced. Plus, there’s now new demand, partly as a result of the various investments that Congress and the Biden administration have been making. But there’s new demand for that kind of work, which has traditionally been apprenticed. But it’s hard for the, employers are finding a problem with the talent pipeline.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:08:19.90] So apprenticeship can be a very attractive way that they can bring, they can expand their pool, their talent pool and bring in more people and get them trained up the way they want to train them. As for the employees, well, I mean, just it’s kind of the other side of the coin. It’s a, it’s a pipeline into and into training that you wouldn’t otherwise get. And it’s an earn while you learn model. So, people call it the other four-year college, because often an apprenticeship takes four years. It combines on- the- job training with classroom related instruction and it’s structured, you get, you get certificates as you go along. And those are nationally recognized certificates proving that you have the skills in, in the occupation that you’ve been trained for and they pay you. You’re an employee of the company during your apprenticeship. You get all the usual employee benefits and you need to take classes. Sometimes the classes are in addition to your 40-hour week. Sometimes they come out of the 40-hour week. It can be structured in different ways, but people finish apprenticeships and, not only do they not have any debt, but they’ve also already bought their first car and maybe, you know, have been saving for the down payment for their first house as opposed to so many people who go through college and end up with a big debt and really not any skills that there’s a, much of a market for.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:10:10.20] Maybe I could also talk a little bit about why apprenticeship can be so good for populations like people with disabilities, African Americans, women who have traditionally been excluded from many of the kinds of occupations that are, that are apprenticed because apprenticeship programs are realizing that, in order to get the talent that they need, they can no longer be restricted to white men. And, you know, sort of the current workforce is sons and nephews. They really need to broaden their reach and broaden the scope. And apprenticeship provides a structured pathway for doing that. Not that there isn’t still discrimination and a lot of stereotypes about what people with disabilities can and can’t do, what’s appropriate for women to do. There’s still hostile work environments in some apprenticeship workplaces or workplaces where there are apprentices, but it’s getting much better and it does offer a pathway into what otherwise would be sort of an opaque set of jobs. I think I’ve now answered all your questions.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:11:42.86] You have. And I feel like such, such good insights here. And HR leaders might be surprised to know of the different industries or positions that have apprenticeship programs, including HR professionals. There is a registered apprenticeship program through the SHRM Foundation just for HR. So it’s not just construction workers or welders. It’s a whole host of positions, which makes it really exciting.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:12:11.87] Yes, there are a lot of new and emerging industries where apprenticeship is taking hold, and some of this is the result of an intentional strategy by the Department of Labor to promote apprenticeship in other industries besides the traditional construction trades. And that really started in 2015. But there are apprenticeships in tech, in finance and insurance and hospitality. And, as you mentioned, in HR.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:12:43.96] I think that’s, that’s amazing. I want to kind of switch gears just a little bit and have you explain EEO regulations to us as they relate to apprenticeships and maybe what HR professionals in particular need to know about these regulations?

Donna Lenhoff: [00:13:03.72] Yeah, I’m happy to do that. And HR professionals are the people who probably understand the best what these regulations add to the existing panoply of protections and legal requirements. So, first of all, apprentices are employees. So title seven applies, The ADA applies, etc. All the nondiscrimination laws as well as the other labor laws apply. There is an exception to Davis-Bacon for apprentices who are in registered programs and who work on federally funded construction. So, it’s a limited exception. But, for construction contractors, it’s often nice that they don’t have to pay the prevailing wage. They pay a percentage of it to apprentices if, again, if it’s federally funded or federally assisted. So, but other than that, the laws all apply. That applies to the employment relationship. Apprentices are kind of in a hybrid position because they also are students, really, they are, they have an educational experience that they’re going through at the same time. And the sponsor of the registered apprenticeship program is the one that is responsible to make sure that the entire apprenticeship experience, it complies with the laws. So there’s a special set of regulations that apply to the people who run apprenticeship programs. Now, you’re going to ask me who? Well, who is that? And sometimes it’s just an employer. An employer, an individual employer will say, Boy, we really need to develop, develop more insurance brokers, claims adjusters. And it’s a, you know, great occupation to be apprenticed.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:15:04.44] And so we’re going to start a new program, State Farm or the Hancock or somebody. So then the employer would be the sponsor, and maybe the employer would be providing the related classroom instruction themselves. Or maybe they, the apprentices would go to some classes at a community college in the area to get the related instruction. And that all has to be set up in advance. Sometimes in the traditional, especially in the traditional trades, the sponsor is a committee that is set up as its own 501C entity that is made up in equal parts of representatives of management and labor, and that’s called the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee and or JATC. And so the JATC is its own entity. It has its own employees. And those employees are responsible for making sure that the apprentices get the related instruction that they need, get and, and are protected on a job as well. So I think the, the biggest difference is that these regulations apply to the sponsor, not, which is not necessarily the employer. So there’s sort of a different way of looking at it because the sponsor is also responsible for the classroom training, making sure it happens. They don’t have to give it, but they, they do have to make sure that it happens and that it meets the standards of the registration agency. The second big difference for the equal employment opportunity portion of the apprenticeship regulations is that they incorporate title seven and the ADA and the ADEA and GINA, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, age, disability, genetic information and, and all of the bases covered by Title seven. So that all applies. And that’s basic. And HR professionals already understand what that, what that’s about. But then there’s an additional set of affirmative obligations that the registered apprenticeship programs have to meet in order to maintain the, their registration, their status as a registered program and, therefore, their ability to award nationwide certificates, nationally recognized certificates to the apprentices when they graduate from the program. So these additional things are pretty common sense. Anti-harassment training has to be provided. Universal outreach has to be done. Whenever there’s an opening in the apprenticeship program, the sponsor has to send out notices of that opening very widely so that it’s not the bad old days when it’s just word of mouth. And, as I said before, it’s just the sons and the nephews of the existing workforce who are told about it. Apprenticeship openings have to be widely publicized. Their record keeping is another affirmative obligation. They, the programs have to specifically appoint somebody who has authority for overseeing the equal employment opportunity efforts of the sponsor and essentially somebody who has authority and responsibility. That’s, as I say, common sense. Anybody would do that would make sure there was an employee whose job that was.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:18:43.43] But it is a requirement. Those requirements that I just mentioned apply to all registered apprenticeship programs. No matter how small they are. And by the way, 75% of registered apprenticeship programs have fewer than five apprentices. So many of them are really just mom and pop shops, you know, plumbing companies who have 1 or 2 apprentices working for them at the, at a time. But the, the ones that have five or more apprentices and have been registered for at least two years and don’t otherwise have an affirmative action program on the books, for example, if they’re a federal contractor and they have a program that meets the OFCCP requirements. Those apprenticeship programs also have to have a written affirmative action plan. They have to extend invitations to self-identify as a person with a disability to all applicants and all apprentices. And they have to renew those invitations on an annual basis so that if somebody’s condition changed, if somebody, for example, acquires a disability, which can happen to any of us, then that can be, they can, they have the opportunity to self-identify even if they didn’t before. And there’s a special form for that, a voluntary disability disclosure form, which is very similar to the form that the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs requires federal contractors to use when they extend invitations to self-identify to their employees and applicants. And if the apprentice, if the percentage of their apprentices in their program who have disabilities, it falls below 7%, then the registered apprenticeship program has to kind of redouble its efforts.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:20:45.58] It has to do targeted outreach, recruitment, and work on the retention of people with disabilities. So this, these extra activities have to be aimed at the population that is underrepresented. For Hispanics and African American, Asians, American Indians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and women, they also have to make targeted efforts to, to reach those communities if the, they are underrepresented for those populations in their program. This is very similar to the concept that is used with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. So. HR people who are familiar with that will be very familiar with this as well. The whole concept of underutilization. Availability is defined, each apprenticeship program of five or more apprentices has to figure out it’s, the availability of women, African Americans, each of the racial groups and Hispanics in their recruitment area who meet the minimum qualifications for the registered apprenticeship program. And that’s, that’s pretty interesting because often the minimum qualifications are just having a high school degree or GED and maybe having a driver’s license. So, if you are recruiting from the Chicago metropolitan area and, and those are your requirements, the percentage of, of people in the Chicago metropolitan area who have high school or GED and a driver’s license who are women is probably pretty close to 50%.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:22:38.57] For African Americans, it’s going to be more reflective of the makeup of the community that you’re recruiting from. And, as I said, for people with disabilities, it’s just, a nationwide figure of 7% is used. And for the same reasons that they did that with the OFCCP. So, there can be pretty robust goals that registered apprenticeship programs need to try to meet. And it’s a good faith effort standard in order to get their program to be within spitting distance of what the availability, what the available workforce is. But of course, you’re not looking when you’re, when you’re bringing people into an apprenticeship program. You’re not looking for people who already have the skills. By definition, you’re going to be training them. So what you’re really, it’s a much broader pool and has the ability, therefore, I think, to be able to diversify more quickly than often happens where you’re trying to recruit somebody who’s already a carpenter or a plumber or a claims adjuster or a, you know, cybersecurity specialist or a line operator who climbs up those, those towers where the, without which we wouldn’t have our cell, much needed cell coverage. I think, though, those are the two big differences. The registered apprenticeship requirements apply to the sponsor, not just the employer. And there are a few things that, to be registered, the program has to do, that are beyond simply avoiding and preventing discrimination under the existing non-discrimination laws.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:24:28.85] Thank you for all that information. I really appreciate it. I wondered, what is an intermediary versus a sponsor for apprenticeships and, and maybe how these roles are different?

Donna Lenhoff: [00:24:53.60] Intermediaries are often trade associations or other, sometimes they’re nonprofits that work in workforce development. Sometimes they’re workforce boards, workforce development boards, but they are entities that work to promote apprenticeship, to try to get more companies to adopt registered apprenticeship, to get more people into registered apprenticeship. And that’s, I think, because there’s quite a, you know, strong feeling and rightly so in this country that we have a, you know, big skills gap between the workforce and, and the skills that employers need. And apprenticeship is a, is a great way to bridge that gap because it’s designed to do exactly that. So, there’s a lot of public policy, both at the state level and the federal level, that funds these various kinds of organizations to promote and foster apprenticeship. It’s possible for an intermediary also to be a sponsor and some, like some trade associations, run a registered apprenticeship program and all of, say, for cybersecurity, and companies in the, their area, or maybe even nationally, can be part of that apprenticeship program and can get apprentices through them and, and then do the on-the-job training themselves. So the trade association is the sponsor and the employer is somebody different. It’s really, that’s a very similar model to the JACT model that I talked about before. So it’s a kind of fluid concept, intermediary. I think it can, it can flow into sponsor, but it doesn’t have to be. They can be totally separate entities.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:26:52.17] Let’s take a reset. This is Jessica Miller-Merrill and you’re listening to Workology podcast. Today we’re talking with Donna Lenhoff, attorney and policy architect. This podcast is part of a podcast series powered by the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship or PIA. Before we get back to the interview, I do want to hear from you. Text the word podcast to (512) 548-3005. Ask questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you.

Break: [00:27:24.00] This episode of the Workology podcast is part of a new podcast series powered by the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship, or PIA. PIA is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, ODEP. ODEP launched PIA to ensure all apprenticeship programs are inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities. PIA collaborates with employers and apprenticeship programs to help meet employer talent needs and enable people with disabilities to benefit from apprenticeships that increase their opportunities for lifelong access to high-growth, high-demand jobs.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:28:00.90] You mentioned earlier about people with disabilities. And I wondered how registered apprenticeships, when they come through a program, how is a disability recorded and why do you think the number of people with disabilities who are maybe a part of these programs so low?

Donna Lenhoff: [00:28:21.24] Oh, you know, I think there’s a lot of reasons. One reason is that the data is, is very recent. It’s only been since 2019 that any registered apprenticeship programs were required to collect data to ask their apprentices and applicants for data on whether or not they have a disability. And not all programs even knew that they had to do that. During the Trump administration, there was a real emphasis on non-registered apprenticeship programs. They were trying to create something called industry-recognized apprenticeship programs, and those programs were not required to try to get disability data. The Administration really didn’t spend any time, regulation and requirement had gone into effect in 2019, but they, the Administration didn’t spend any time on it. So they, because they were focused on this other thing. So they didn’t let people know in the fields, you know, there was just, they didn’t do webinars, they didn’t send out notices, I mean there was nothing that alerted the registered apprenticeship programs to the fact that they had this new obligation, unless they happened to be keeping track of that, you know, for themselves. So, so for one thing, the data hasn’t even been collected. It wasn’t even started to be collected til 2019. And for another, even then, it wasn’t really collected until this Administration came in. And they are much more interested in making registered apprenticeship functional. And so they have started to emphasize it.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:30:06.70] So, we’re only really looking at two years of any widespread attention to the requirement of, of data. And then there’s the other, you know, the general reason why people with disabilities are afraid to, they don’t want to be retaliated against. They don’t want to be stigmatized. And so they don’t identify. Either they say, no, I’m not a person with a disability on the form or they check, don’t want to answer, or they take the form and they chuck it in the, you know, circular file and it’s never seen again. So, there’s a huge denominator, if you will, of, of just unknowns. So, but if you take the yeses and compare them with all the apprentices, it’s going to be very tiny because it doesn’t account for all of those unknowns. So, that’s one of the problems with the data, as well as just the reluctance of apprentices and employees in general to self-identify. That, of course, is a problem. That is, it’s a problem in the census, when the census takes data, it’s a problem when the OFCCP takes data, the federal government tries to collect data on the disability status of their employees. You know, and there’s just widespread underreporting. I think the data people think that the more used to collecting this data we get, as a whole, the same way people just mostly check race and sex data on forms, they’ll start to check this as well.


Donna Lenhoff: [00:31:50.11] And that’s it will be especially true if they are working at a company or in an apprenticeship program that has made a real commitment to inclusiveness for people with disabilities and, therefore, where people will be less nervous about disclosing. So it’s a, it’s a kind of another one of these muddy answers, a little of this and a little of that. But it all adds up to, I think, really the answer is, we don’t really know. We just don’t really know what the percentage of people with disabilities is in apprenticeship programs. Oh, and then finally, of course, people with disabilities don’t think that they can be construction workers, and most apprenticeship programs are still construction, you know, in construction. I don’t mean to say that all people with disabilities think that but, you know, there’s a certain amount of, the stereotype creeps into the would-be apprentices as well as, of course, the people who are administering the apprenticeship program. And so there’s, there’s also perhaps a self-selection out as well as straight out discrimination. So we don’t get very many people with disabilities, at least in the traditional apprenticeship programs in, in occupations that are very physical. And the vast majority of apprenticeships are still in a construction area. I would love to get to see the data by industry, um, but I have not, I don’t think that’s available publicly yet.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:33:34.61] Hopefully it’ll be available soon. It’s helpful for, I think, people to understand how the data is being collected, that it is relatively new information and the importance. I feel like a lot of employees when they come on board to an organization, whether they’re apprenticeship or not, they don’t understand why the information that they’re being asked to share is, is important and, and maybe how it’s being used.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:34:01.53] Yeah, they’re very nervous about how it’s going to be used and can’t say that I blame them.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:34:06.93] I wanted to ask you, for HR leaders, for our HR leaders, how can companies improve the process so that employees feel more comfortable about disclosing?

Donna Lenhoff: [00:34:16.86] I think the research shows that, if the company makes a pretty visible effort, visible to, internally to its employees, that showing that they are an inclusive company and that they welcome people with disabilities, all kinds of disabilities, that, that this is indeed part of their business plan, part of their DNA, if they have culled workplace culture, if they do work on their workplace culture to be more inclusive of people with disabilities that employees, and including apprentices, will come to trust that they’re not going to be fired for disclosing. And they’ll also see it. And also, if they’re already an employee, they’ve already been hired, right? So, when you’re asked as an applicant, you’re really nervous because you’re afraid if you say you have a disability that you won’t be hired, but after you’re hired and you’ve been there for a year and remember, the employee, employer has to extend the invitation to self-identify at least annually. After you’ve been there for a while, there can be greater comfort. So a combination of time and seeing how the information is used or not used, and accompany, a welcoming, intentional, welcoming for people with disabilities, kind of a workplace culture.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:35:54.28] Those two things I think can begin to make a difference. And again, remember, if people only really started getting these forms to fill out to voluntarily disclose whether they have a disability or not in 2021 and they’re nervous for the first couple of years. Well, of course, we’re going to get a low rate. Maybe after some time when they get this form over and over again and they see people aren’t fired and people getting reasonable accommodations, you know, it can loosen up a bit. I think that’s the hope. And I know when this requirement was put into place for federal contractors, there were all these arguments about why it’s not going to work and nobody’s going to self-disclose came up. And finally the decision was, we are never going to find out the information if we don’t start asking at some point. So we need to try to normalize this. And that was really, that happened in 2013. So, in federal and I don’t know, it’s a good question what the response rate is for federal contractor employees on disability.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:37:06.93] Data is so important. And we talk about this a lot with Chief People Officers, heads of HR, and then the diversity, equity and inclusion leaders that we have on the podcast. Like we need the information, the data so that we can create a baseline and have a, put together a plan and a strategy to help improve diversity efforts and also invite more employees, candidates into these programs. And that goes for apprenticeships too.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:37:34.05] Right. You can’t, you know, as the old saying goes, you, you can’t make change to something you can’t measure.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:37:45.27] Agreed. Who is responsible for the affirmative action reporting? We know it’s not the employees themselves. Is it going to be likely the HR person if the organization is the one with their own registered apprenticeship program?

Donna Lenhoff: [00:37:59.64] It’s the sponsor. Whoever the sponsor is, is responsible. I should say also that there is no reporting required. That is, the apprenticeship programs don’t have to submit their affirmative action plans or give their demographic breakdown to the registration agency. They, they may, if they qualify for an EEO1 form, or if the employer does, or one of those other forms that the EEOC collects, then they have to report demographic and wage information to the EEOC. But, under these regulations, there’s no affirmative requirement of filing or reporting. What is the only way that the Office of Apprenticeship knows what the programs are doing is when they do program reviews, and they aim to review every registered apprenticeship program in the country every 3 to 5 years. But there are over 20,000 registered apprenticeship programs, and the Office of Apprenticeship has a budget of under 50 million a year. I don’t know how many employees they have, but they have a lot of offices that only have 1 or 2 employees in it. I’d be surprised if they really do manage to review every program every 3 to 5 years. That’s certainly something that I’ve been pushing for, is that they get more resources and figure out, even with the resources they have, how to be more targeted and effective in deciding which programs they review so that, you know, they get more impact for, for their efforts.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:39:48.77] We’ve talked a lot about apprenticeships. I feel like we’ve covered a lot of ground, reporting, some basic information to, to help people get an understanding of as far as registered apprenticeship programs, where we’re at. Where do you see apprenticeships growing? Are there certain industries that are maybe growing more rapidly than others? If HR leaders are like, “Oh, this is interesting, I want to know more.” Where’s the growth happening?

Donna Lenhoff: [00:40:14.46] It’s happening in manufacturing, particularly chips manufacturing and electric car, electric vehicle manufacturing, batteries, and also in construction. And those are still the big two fields and green jobs and some environmental jobs. And that’s because these are the jobs that are being funded by the Infrastructure and CHIPS Act and Inflation Reduction Act investments that Congress and the administration made last year and the year before. So those projects are really just now, the monies are only just now being awarded and the projects are getting up and running. And so they’re, that they’re now at the point where they need to hire, you know, up and down their, their organizations. And indeed some of those laws or some of the monies that go out have attached to them and a requirement that a certain percentage of the employees of the entity that’s getting the money be registered apprentices, because it is seen as a policy matter as such a good way for training workers and beginning to address the mismatch between employee skills and employers’ needs.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:41:46.92] Well, Donna, thank you so much for, for taking the time to chat with us today. We’re going to include your LinkedIn if people want to connect with you more, as well as some other resources, including information from PIA or the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship, where they can be directed to how to get started, where to go and learn more about the different possibilities when it comes to registered apprenticeship programs.

Donna Lenhoff: [00:42:13.31] Right. I’m so glad, this, I enjoyed this. Jessica, Thank you.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:42:17.33] Thank you. I get so excited when I have podcast interviews like this. Someone like Donna, who has fundamentally shifted and been part of the fundamental shift that we know, presently, today when it comes to employment law, especially around people with disabilities and women’s rights. It gives me chills. This area, when it comes to apprenticeships and employing people with disabilities, and, it is such an important area of focus, it should be for us as HR professionals, especially given the current talent, marketplace and skills gap in so many industries. I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago. All these conversations were about finding the right talent and using different tools and resources to be able to attract that talent. Apprenticeships should be one of those tools and resources that organizations are utilizing. These are inclusive and accessible apprenticeships and I believe they’re the key for growing the workforce of the future. For our HR audience, I invite you to please check out the show notes for this episode for resources and links about registered apprenticeships. And I so appreciate Donna for sharing her time and expertise and experience with us today. Before I close, I do want to hear from you. If you have a suggestion or an idea or a comment about the Workology podcast, send me a text. Text the word podcast to (512) 548-3005. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. I don’t think that it is often enough that we sit down and talk with members of our workforce outside of our business, and frankly, that’s something I’m trying to do more of. I encourage you to connect with people and that you can learn outside of our comfortable space of the workplace and the organization. This will help introduce us to new ideas, new people, new programs like apprenticeships. These are such great ways to work with new talent pools and drive qualified and engaged new employees to our workplaces. Thank you to PIA as well as our podcast sponsor, Workology.