The Value of Inclusive Apprenticeships

There are significant financial benefits to offering an inclusive apprenticeship program and hiring people with disabilities as apprentices. Apprenticeship intermediaries are eligible for incentives to support their programs and reduce costs, and, in turn, employers who make inclusion a priority and actively recruit and hire apprenticeship graduates (especially those with disabilities) can save time and money throughout all stages of the employment process.

About This Resource

In this resource designed for employers, you will find tips for calculating the return on investment of inclusive apprenticeship, the steps you can take to create an apprenticeship program, resources for making that program inclusive of people with disabilities, and information about how to fund your program.

lightbulb“Companies [have started] to recognize that their workforce needs to be more reflective of the general populace and that has opened the door to creating opportunities for people with non-traditional backgrounds. Apprenticeship helps create new talent but is also addressing a diversity gap.” ~ Jennifer Carlson, Co-Founder, Executive Director, WTIA Workforce Institute and Apprenti
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Calculate the return on investment of inclusive apprenticeship

Before you dive into designing an apprenticeship program, consider the return on investment (ROI) by answering the following questions:

Higher Productivity

In a study of over 4,000 employers, 79% selected improved productivity as an anticipated business benefit of apprenticeship.[1] And 97% of HR professionals say that employees with disabilities regularly perform the same or better than their peers without disabilities.[2]

In what ways are you increasing your workforce’s productivity as it relates to hiring practices?

Reduced Training Costs

LaunchCode, a nonprofit that provides free tech education and job placement opportunities, found that the out-of-pocket costs for hiring a fully trained worker are $6,500 compared with $5,000 for recruiting and training an apprentice – a 30% cost savings.[3]

What investments is your company making to train new and/or existing employees?

Lower Turnover/Reduced Recruiting Costs

89% of registered apprentices demonstrated a 3-year retention rate.[4] And at four Walgreens locations the 3-year average turnover rate was 48% higher for team members without a disability as compared to team members with a disability, saving  on recruiting and training costs.[5]

How many open positions do you have? How long have these positions been open? Which positions are the hardest to fill?

Fosters a Wider Talent Pool

In over 90% of cases, apprentices who completed their apprenticeships became employees in the company where they work.[6] 26% of adults have a disability,[7] but only 29.1% of working age adults with a disability are employed, compared to 70% of working age adults without a disability.[8] 10.7 million more Americans could enter the job market if companies embrace disability inclusion.[9]

What efforts are you making to broaden your talent pool?

Attracts New Employees

Job seekers prefer employers who are inclusive[10] and 76% of employees and job seekers said a diverse workforce was important when evaluating companies and job offers.[11]

Does your company have a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) policy? If so, do you have strategies in place to include people with disabilities?

Significant ROI

In 2020, the average registered apprenticeship program (RAP) yielded a 170% return on investment for North Carolina employers.[12] Companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting more persons with disabilities in their workforce experienced 28% higher revenue, 200% higher net income, and 30% higher profit margins.[13]

If you already have an apprenticeship program, what is the ROI? How has your company benefited by hiring people with disabilities?

Lower Error Rates/Absenteeism

Employees with disabilities experience 34% fewer workplace accidents than the rest of the population,[14] have lower error rates,[15] and have fewer scheduled absences[16] than those without disabilities.

What efforts are you making to reduce error rates (i.e., human errors that may lead to accidents or mistakes on the job)? Are you seeking to reduce absenteeism?

Increased Innovation

Companies with above average diversity produced 19% more revenue from innovation than companies with below average diversity.[17]

How is your company driving innovation? In what ways are your employees helping to increase innovation at your company?

Increased Customer Base

87% of consumers prefer diverse companies.[18]

Would you like to attract more customers?

Now that you have thought about the ways that apprenticeship programs and inclusive hiring can increase your ROI, it’s time to use your own data to calculate true cost savings to your company. Michigan and Oregan have apprenticeship ROI calculators that you can use to help calculate ROI.

dollar symbolFunding Your Registered Apprenticeship Program

Ready to design your apprenticeship program but unsure of who is going to pay for it? There are several tax incentives and grants you may qualify for as an employer or intermediary.

Apprenticeship tax incentives:

  • National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) maintains a list of several states across the nation that offer a variety of tax incentives and grant funding for the employment of apprentices or the implementation of apprenticeship programs.
  • The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. Employers can take advantage of WIOA funding to support a variety of apprenticeship expenses, including classroom training, on-the-job training, and supportive services.

Tax incentives for hiring people with disabilities:

  • The Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) has a list of federal and state tax incentives for hiring people with disabilities, which your apprenticeship program may qualify for.
  • This includes the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) which is a Federal tax credit of up to $9,600 per apprentice. It is available to employers hiring individuals from certain targeted groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment.

The Apprenticeship Inclusion Models (AIM) for Youth and Adults with Disabilities also developed a policy and practice brief, “Funding Inclusive Apprenticeships: Strategies for Braiding, Blending, and Aligning Resources,” which contains specific examples of how inclusive apprenticeship programs are funded. More information is available at and the Federal Resources Playbook.

people connectedMaking Your Apprenticeship Program Inclusive

Once you have identified how you will fund your registered apprenticeship program, it’s time to consider how you will make your program truly inclusive to reap the benefits mentioned above. Below are resources for making your apprenticeship program more inclusive, especially for people with disabilities.

Check out our Guide

Whether you’re ready to recruit people with disabilities to join your apprenticeship program, seeking information on best practices to launch an inclusive apprenticeship program, or simply searching for best practices to make your program more accessible, PIA’s “Designing Inclusive Apprenticeships: A Guide for Recruiting & Training Apprentices with Disabilities” provides tools to support your success. The guide is designed to help apprenticeship intermediaries and employers create more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible apprenticeship programs. It includes recommendations, resources, and accessibility considerations to effectively source, engage, and support apprentices with disabilities.

Listen to our podcast

Join PIA and leading HR blog on our Apprenticeship for All Podcast to explore how inclusive apprenticeship programs are increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Review our resource library

Do you want to learn more about inclusive apprenticeship programs and how you can get involved? Browse our resource library for resources geared toward employers, apprenticeship intermediaries, and apprentices.

gear with arrows spinning around itHow to Set up a Registered Apprenticeship Program

There are five core building blocks involved in creating and operating a Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP). Depending on where you are in the program creation process, you may choose to start at a different building block. For example, if you’re new to apprenticeship you may begin by  exploring how apprenticeship is used across industry and geography. If you’re already familiar with apprenticeship, you can begin to build, partner, and register your program. Click the links below to read more about each step on the website.

1Step 1. Explore

Learn how apprenticeship programs can help you prepare and train your future workforce.

2Step 2. Build

Learn how to create your own apprenticeship program or partner with an existing apprenticeship program.

3Step 3. Partner

PIA works with several apprenticeship intermediaries that you may be interested in partnering with. Check out their websites for more information:

We also can recommend several partner organizations that are also experienced in providing apprenticeship guidance:

4Step 4. Register

Find out how to register your apprenticeship program with the U.S. Department of Labor or State Apprenticeship Agency.

5Step 5. Launch

Begin your apprenticeship program by recruiting and hiring talent. Learn how to sustain and grow your program.


[1] Ipsos MORI, “Department for Business Innovation & Skills Research Paper No. 213 Apprenticeships Evaluation: Employer,” p. 6, August 2013.

[2] SHRM, “Employing Abilities @Work 2019 Research Report,” October 2019.

[3] Case Western Reserve University and U.S. Department of Commerce, “The Benefits of and Costs of Apprenticeship: A Business Perspective,” November 2016, p. 55-58.

[4] ApprenticeshipUSA, ApprenticeshipUSA Toolkit, p. 18.

[5] Kaletta, James P., Douglas J. Binks and Richard Robinson, “Creating an Inclusive Workplace: Integrating Employees with Disabilities into a Distribution Center Environment,” Professional Safety, June 2012, p. 64.

[6] U.S. Department of Labor Employment Training and Administration, Press Release, 18 September 2020.

[7] CDC, “Disability Impacts All of Us” 16 September 2020.

[8] U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics – 2020,” 24 February 2021.

[9] Accenture and produced by AAPD, DisabilityIN, “Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage,” 2018, p. 4.

[10] Miller, Jennifer, “For younger job seekers, diversity and inclusion in the workplace aren’t a preference. They’re a requirement.,” Washington Post, 18 February 2021.

[11] Glassdoor, “Diversity and Inclusion Workplace Survey,” 30 September 2020.

[12] North Carolina Community Colleges ApprenticeshipNC and NC Department of Commerce Labor & Economic Analysis, “North Carolina Apprenticeship Program Survey Report,” October 2020, p. 5.

[13] Accenture and produced by AAPD, DisabilityIN, “Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage,” 2018, p. 7.

[14] Workplace Initiative and Job Accommodation Network, “Disability Employment and Inclusion: Your Guide to Success,” 1 May 2018, p. 11.

[15] Cisco LifeChanger, “Transforming Lives Through Technology,” 2017.

[16] Workplace Initiative and Job Accommodation Network, “Disability Employment and Inclusion: Your Guide to Success,” 1 May 2018, p. 63.

[17] Levine, Stuart R., “Diversity Confirmed to Boost Innovation and Financial Results,” Forbes, 15 January 2020.

[18] Workplace Initiative and Job Accommodation Network, “Disability Employment and Inclusion: Your Guide to Success,” 1 May 2018, p. 8.