Hiring and Retaining Apprentices with Disabilities

Every day, individuals with disabilities go to work as apprentices in all sectors of the economy, and businesses seek opportunities to increase and diversify their workforces to tap into all available talent. The apprenticeship Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) regulations help individuals with disabilities succeed in Registered Apprenticeship programs and provide businesses and other sponsors the tools necessary to promote their inclusion.

Several tools and resources are available to provide:

  • Information on recruiting, hiring, training and retaining individuals with disabilities; and
  • Support for sponsors' invitations for voluntary disability disclosure
Man in wheelchair

What Do the Apprenticeship EEO Regulations Say about Individuals with Disabilities?

The regulations describe the responsibilities of apprenticeship program sponsors to ensure that apprentices and apprenticeship applicants with disabilities receive equal employment opportunity

  • Most important, sponsors may not discriminate against apprentices and applicants on the basis of disability and must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified persons where appropriate.
  • Sponsors must ensure that their outreach and recruitment efforts extend to all persons available for apprenticeship, including individuals with disabilities.
  • The regulations establish a national aspirational goal that 7 percent of a sponsor's apprentices, for each major occupational group within the apprenticeship program, are to be qualified individuals with disabilities. This goal is not a quota; sponsors must not base employment decisions on an individual's disability status, and sponsors are not in violation of the regulations merely for falling short of the goal. Rather, the goal serves as a benchmark against which sponsors measure their inclusion of people with disabilities in their apprenticeships and as a tool to determine whether, and where, their practices may set up roadblocks to equal employment opportunity for individuals with disabilities. The 7 percent goal, effective January 18, 2019, applies to apprenticeship sponsors that are required to maintain affirmative action programs.
  • To measure the rate of inclusion of individuals with disabilities, beginning in January 2019, all apprenticeship sponsors that are required to maintain an affirmative action program must invite applicants for apprenticeships, and current apprentices, to self-identify whether they have a disability. (Note: sponsors should not ask apprentices or applicants to identify their specific disability, just whether or not they have a disability. Additionally, apprentices and applicants may choose not to identify their disability and sponsors must not force individuals to do so.) Sponsors must use the Department of Labor-provided form for this purpose.
  • Any individual who believes he or she has been discriminated against on the basis of disability in an apprenticeship program has the right to file a written complaint with the agency that registered the apprenticeship program. Sponsors must notify apprentices and apprenticeship applicants of this right and of the procedures for filing complaints.
  • Compliance with the apprenticeship EEO non-discrimination requirements for individuals with disabilities will be assessed using the standards established in the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title I .

The apprenticeship EEO regulations apply to apprenticeship sponsors that are registered with the federal Office of Apprenticeship (OA) and to apprenticeship sponsors that are registered with State Apprenticeship Agencies (SAAs) that have enacted OA-approved language adopting the updated part 30 regulation.

Fact or Myth?

  • Myth! The term "disability" includes a wide range of conditions. Many people associate disabilities with conditions that affect mobility, but there are many other types of disabilities, such as sensory, cognitive, and psychiatric disabilities. Many disabilities are not apparent, such as learning disabilities, psychiatric or behavioral conditions, diabetes, chemical sensitivities, and epilepsy.

  • Myth! Managing and teaching apprentices with disabilities is no different than managing any other apprentices. Sponsors should use the same practices with apprentices who have disabilities that are successful in ensuring productivity and effective learning with any of their apprentices. In addition, state vocational rehabilitation funding may be available to pay for job coaching services to assist the sponsor and apprentice with skill building or getting over any road blocks in the learning process.

  • Fact! Reasonable accommodations are adjustments or modifications that allow workers with disabilities to perform the essential functions of a job. Accommodations vary according to the nature of the job and the needs of the worker. Most workers with disabilities require no accommodation to perform the job. According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, more than half of requested accommodations cost nothing, and most accommodations that do have a cost are less than $500. Additionally, sponsors do not have to make an accommodation that imposes an undue hardship on them. If sponsors have questions about appropriate workplace accommodations, they may consult JAN for resources and solutions, free of charge.

  • Fact! Employers can find a wealth of information on employer subsidies related to disability employment at the following webpage: http://www.askearn.org/topics/laws-regulations/employer_financial_incentives/

    This webpage was developed by the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), a free resource that helps employers tap the benefits of disability diversity. EARN educates public- and private-sector organizations on ways to build inclusive workplace cultures. Many other resources are available at the www.askearn.org website.

  • Myth! An employee with a disability must meet the same production standards, whether quantitative or qualitative, as an employee without a disability in the same job. Lowering or changing a production standard because an employee cannot meet it due to a disability is not considered a reasonable accommodation. (However, a reasonable accommodation may be required to assist an employee in meeting a specific production standard). In addition, sponsors should remember that loyalty, dependability, and a desire to do a good job are not attributes held exclusively by employees or apprentices without disabilities.

Still Have Questions?

Visit our Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about topics like hiring individuals with disabilities, issuing an invitation to self-identify as an individual with a disability, and reasonable accommodations.