Project 5. Disability-Owned Business Enterprises and Supply Chain Diversity: Underutilized Policy Lever to Increasing Disability Employment Project 5B.Apprenticeship: A Path to Sustainable Skilled Careers

  • These projects continue the examination of trends and innovations driving increased employment rates for persons with disabilities: apprenticeship and entrepreneurship as part of the supply chain.
  • Apprenticeship offers a nontraditional path to economic advancement and employment. It combines on the job training and classroom instruction with a paycheck and is an entry point to a highly skilled job that pays well without a college degree (Jobs for the Future, 2018). It offers specialized training for a productive and economically satisfying job. It is one of the oldest forms of training, involving learning under the direction of a senior worker. Because training is part of the job, apprentices do not have to forgo income while learning, avoiding one of the main barriers to receiving training and specialized skills.
  • Apprenticeships dramatically raise workers’ wages from the time they complete training and continue to benefit them over the course of their careers. Workers who complete an apprenticeship earn an average starting salary of more than $60,000 and over their careers, they earn $300,000 more than comparable job seekers (U.S. DOL, 2020). After apprenticeship completion, 94 percent of apprentices retain employment (Office of Apprenticeship, 2020).  In a study released this month by Opportunity America and Brookings looking a program in Kentucky, apprenticeship increased earnings by 63%.
  • With our entrepreneurship project, we will examine the field of supplier diversity and the opportunities it creates for disability employment.  Supplier diversity refers to a supply chain that incorporates businesses owned by diverse individuals or groups that are a part of a traditionally underserved or underrepresented group. Examples are minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs), women-owned business enterprises (WBEs), service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) or veteran-owned small business (VOSB), and now there are disability-owned business enterprises (DOBEs). In each case, the suppliers are certified through third-party certification agencies. DOBEs are certified by Disability:IN. Each business must be 51 percent owned, operated, and managed by a person with a disability, and must not be substantially reliant on another business to operate. The certification is now recognized by a growing number of states, which have extended procurement preferences to DOBEs (e.g., Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, and Massachusetts), the City of Philadelphia, and the Billion Dollar Roundtable.
  • These two studies’ methods of analysis and key outcomes examined will mirror each other: examining the structure of programs, examining participation in them, and examining outcomes of them.
  • Importantly, both these areas involve the policy lever of quota-setting, though in neither is that quota mandatory.  Envisioning the quotas as aspirational goals that (a) may be met as well as they are for other groups, (b) met perfectly, or (c) exceeded allows one to project future employment and earnings rates for people with disabilities with continued successful pursuit.
  • Policymakers can use these benchmarks to consider additional incentivization of the programs, alternative quota targets, and/or the addition of regulatory “teeth” to support goal achievement.