Episode 298: Creating Inclusive Apprenticeships with Josh Christianson of PIA

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’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). In November of 2020, ODEP launched PIA to ensure all apprenticeship programs are inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities. 

Episode 298: Creating Inclusive Apprenticeships with Josh Christianson (@ethos_josh) of PIA

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.

I spoke to Josh Christianson, Project Director at Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship (PIA). Josh is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace with experience in D&I training, conflict resolution, non-profit leadership, group facilitation, and change management. New approaches to apprenticeship programs are taking shape across the U.S. to meet employer talent needs and enable job seekers with disabilities to gain credentials and skills to succeed in growing industries. 

I asked Josh to talk about how PIA supports employers in creating inclusive apprenticeship programs. “One thing we do is help to facilitate the design of an apprenticeship program and we try to meet people where they are. So that looks different for different employers. In short, we’re helping them set up an apprenticeship program using us as our services are provided by the Department of Labor, to ensure that it is inclusive and usable by all people.” 

“We partner with different entities. Some are huge, some are small. Some have been doing it for a long time. Some are just starting. Some have a focus on people with disabilities. Some have never thought about it. And we really try to understand what their specific needs are and see how we can best support or help them where they are in their maturity of a program and do what we can to fit into their needs, as opposed to fitting into ours.”

How Inclusive Apprenticeships Benefit Employers

There are so many HR professionals working for companies who would love to create programs like these, but they don’t know how to present a case for company leadership that speaks the language of ROI. I asked Josh how inclusive apprenticeships can benefit employers and why they should create one within their organization. 

Josh explained, “quite frankly, they can contribute to your bottom line. They can increase revenue, they can lower turnover. Some of that is by virtue of what apprenticeship brings. The yield on apprenticeship is extremely high for employers. Over 90 percent of people that go through apprenticeship programs, registered apprenticeship programs, end up getting hired. The dollars spent on training are much less, so there are some specific things around just apprenticeship that add to the bottom line.” 

“Inclusion of people with disabilities is the right thing to do from a values based perspective. But it’s also proving to show that it is the right thing to do from a bottom line perspective. So that’s important. I think also, as we look where we are as a country, the increased focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, or as President Biden recently put out, diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, in a recent executive order. You know, we as a country are figuring out ways to include more people, to open up the resources and opportunities and benefits that lots of people have been excluded from for a long time. And people with disabilities are a part of that.”

PIA has recently created a new resource for employers called “Perspectives on Apprenticeships: What Employers Should Know About the Value of Inclusive Apprenticeship Programs” (visit InclusiveApprenticeship.org) I asked Josh to talk a bit about how we can use this resource. 

“We set out to engage the important stakeholders and learn what was needed, what was happening, what are some of the best practices, where we could fit in as an entity, because we really just started in March of this year. And so we sought stakeholder input from employers, from intermediaries, from people with disabilities and advocacy organizations, from the Department of Labor itself, to understand where the overlap was and we could have the most benefit. That’s the starting point of this resource. What it can do is help advance understanding of all this overlap. These perspectives are going to help people understand how they can work with others to create a more diverse, inclusive workforce and also explicitly how we can work with them to collaborate and support that, or how there are other connections and resources that could help them. And so this resource is kind of setting the table for why inclusive apprenticeship is important and how organizations can use it to meet their unique talent needs.” 

Designing an apprenticeship program, especially one that is inclusive, is about creating a practical and usable program that is focused on universal design principles. I’m linking to the new White House Fact Sheet on DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility) as well as PIA newest apprenticeship resource below. A special thank you to Josh for giving us some great information and resources to get us inspired about creating inclusive apprenticeship programs. 

Listen to the entire podcast episode for more, including the intersectionality of DEI and A, industries that benefit the most from inclusive apprenticeship programs, and how intermediary organizations support the logistics of a registered apprenticeship program.

Connect with Josh Christianson.



– Josh Christianson on LinkedIn

– Josh Christianson on Twitter

– Perspectives on Apprenticeship

– Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship

– White House Fact Sheet: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Accessibility (DEIA)

– Episode 291: Invisible Disabilities and Apprenticeships

Episode 277: How Apprenticeships Support Diversity & Inclusion

– Episode Transcript

How to Subscribe to the Workology Podcast

Stitcher | PocketCast | iTunes | Podcast RSS | Google Play | YouTube | TuneIn

Find out how to be a guest on the Workology Podcast.

Posted in

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


Pin It on Pinterest