Episode 373: Apprenticeships as a Way of Eradicating Poverty With Joshua Johnson From JFF

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Episode 373: Apprenticeships as a Way of Eradicating Poverty With Joshua Johnson From JFF

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Table of Contents

So the way I look at apprenticeship, it really can be used, in my opinion, as a way of eradicating poverty. And they can do that through the example I just used, which is individuals can come in with little to no experience and walk out as highly skilled in that occupation.

Episode 373: Apprenticeships as a Way of Eradicating Poverty With Joshua Johnson From JFF


Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrell, 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: [00:00:42.54] 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 Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, also known as 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 guest for this Workology Podcast episode, I want to hear from you. Please text the word “PODCAST” to the number 512-548-3005. That’s “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. You can ask questions, leave comments, and make suggestions to me for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. Today, I’m joined by Joshua Johnson, Director of Jobs for the Future’s National Innovation Hub for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Registered Apprenticeship, which is operated by the organization’s Center for Apprenticeship & Work Based Learning. In that role, Joshua leads efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in apprenticeships, with a specific focus on helping employers make commitments to building inclusive registered apprenticeship programs. Joshua, welcome to the Workology Podcast.

Joshua Johnson: [00:02:18.81] Yes, thank you. Good afternoon.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:02:21.18] Let’s get started. I would love for you to tell us a little bit about your background and what led to your current role at JFF?

Joshua Johnson: [00:02:29.13] Yeah, it’s a pretty interesting background, actually. I guess you could say. I’ve been on both sides of the apprenticeship world and now I’m also on the, on another side. So the third side of apprenticeship world. So back in 2004 and I know we’ll talk about this a little later so I won’t go too in-depth of my beginnings, but I became a construction craft laborer apprentice here in the state of Wisconsin, and I was in that program for, it’s a two-year program, and then I end up working in building highways for six years in Illinois and Wisconsin with a company called Walsh Construction. From that, my youngest son was born, who will be 12 in a couple of months. He was born, and I decided at that point, you know, I’m just, I’m not really interested in working these ridiculously long hours and being on call if something happens. I just wasn’t interested in that part of my life, at that time in my life as, as I was about to raise a son, that I wanted to be kind of like at the beck and call of an organization or a company. So I decided to strike out on my own. And while my, my son’s mother was finishing school, finishing college, we work together to kind of as she was finishing college, I was raising our son.

Joshua Johnson: [00:03:44.58] And eventually, I started to do a little work where I was doing some motivational speaking, going out and speaking about my story, my life story. And I came across someone who was working for state government and they were working with, they were working in Division of Employment and Training within Department of Workforce Development. Her name was Laneice McGhee, and she heard me speak and she’s like, We need to get you into state government. I had no clue what that meant, but eventually, I got a job within State Government. There was a posting she sent me for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, where they were starting in Wisconsin, the first-ever group of business service consultants. And those business service consultants basically were being brought in brand new. Never been a part of the vision of vocational rehabilitation before. And those roles were to basically help employers tap into the untapped talent pool of individuals with disabilities. So I worked with DVR for a little over a year and I did a presentation to the apprenticeship folks here in the state of Wisconsin. And the, the manager who saw me was like, we have to get that guy. Her name was Kathy Wellington, and she, there was a posting, a job posting that came up to join the apprenticeship team and the field rep, like an entry-level role as an apprenticeship field representative, I applied for it.

Joshua Johnson: [00:05:07.19] And then I became State Director of the Wisconsin Apprenticeship System in December of 2019. Went through the pandemic, the beginning part of the pandemic, and JFF was, they’ve been working together with DOL on this cooperative agreement when they received the information that they were getting the cooperative agreement. They reached out to recruit me to join part of their team. And I had some very pointed questions like, am I going to have to relocate because I’m here in Wisconsin with my family and I wasn’t interested in relocating at that time. And those questions, the questions that I had got answered to my liking. So I went through the process and I was chosen to be now the Director for the National Innovation Hub for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in Registered Apprenticeship with JFF. And we are one of the US DOL Registered Apprenticeship Technical Assistance Centers of Excellence. So that kind of brings me up. I know that’s a really long answer, but that kind of brings you up from when I was an apprentice to like now. And I always say the funny part of the story is I was the second choice to go work in Wisconsin apprenticeship.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:06:13.34] It’s fascinating to me. Your story and how you went through an apprenticeship program, started speaking, doing a lot of motivational speaking and now full circle. Here you are doing a lot of really interesting things to help support employers as well as employees, too. So for listeners who might not be familiar with registered apprenticeships, can you explain how these differ from other forms of work training and how it’s evolving in terms of the non-traditional sectors outside of the trades? Because when I think of apprenticeships, I think of plumbing or welding or something like that, but there’s a lot more. So walk us through.

Joshua Johnson: [00:07:01.34] Definitely. And before I start into it, it’s funny that you say when you think of apprenticeship, you think of plumbing and welding. What’s funny is those are occupations that that’s not even the industry. Most people are a little more broad and like, I just think of construction. So it was, it was great that you even identified two occupations within there that are part of apprenticeship. But, you know, as we think about it, I’m going to, I’m going to answer the first part of your question first here. I always think about this comes from my former supervisor who was here at JFF, Eric Seleznow, who always said and everything he talked about, this is not your grandfather’s apprenticeship, right? So we talk about that. And we also talk about the gold standard. That apprenticeship is the gold standard and then the workforce system. And I always say, and I don’t know if anybody agrees with me because I just say it, but I truly believe this. Like after being at different stages in the national apprenticeship system, there isn’t a training program that exists within our workforce system where anyone and everyone, once they, if they can come in with zero knowledge and zero experience, can walk out and be highly skilled, right? They may not be, so the highly proficient they’re, they’re, they’re at a management level, but some people might.

Joshua Johnson: [00:08:15.41] But you can come into apprenticeship like I did. They need individuals to be trained. They’re going to give you the skill you need to be proficient in that role. And I think for me, when we think about other forms of work for training, like apprenticeship is giving you that ability that you come in with very low knowledge and you start and you’re paid from day one, and you start your apprenticeship, and as you continue to gain knowledge as well as theoretical knowledge and on-the-job training knowledge, as you go up that scale, your income goes up because there’s a progressive wage scale associated with the registered apprenticeship program. And I think lastly, I’m just hitting on the three top things that I see. The last one is when you do complete a registered apprenticeship, right? There’s a national credential that follows you, and that credential says that you’re proficient in this occupation, this is the apprenticeship that you serve, and that credential can go anywhere nationally and it’s sometimes even internationally. So as we talk about and think about how it evolves into non-traditional sectors, this is an area that was one of my biggest challenges as the former state director in Wisconsin, which was everybody always thought of the word apprenticeship as construction and manufacturing, and it was a huge challenge to get new industries to understand it from the perspective that No, apprenticeship is a training program. It’s a training outline that your company can use to bring in talent, to bring in underrepresented talent, to bring in talent that you may have never engaged with before. Get them into your company, scale them up through training, and then turn them into management, so on and so forth. So what I’ve seen is continued growth over, I’d say over the past six years in the sector, such as health care, IT, you see, transportation, cybersecurity. There’s currently a cybersecurity sprint going on right now with US DOL. But I see more and more non-traditional sectors understanding it and seeing how they can adapt it in. I think one of the biggest challenges that you will hear individuals say about registered apprenticeships, and that’s because they automatically think of construction, is they automatically say we’re not a construction union. So you really have to meet with them and help them understand that their structure that they have in place already at their business, like how it can support apprenticeship. And I think that’s been a large part definitely by JFF and many other industry intermediaries out there who’ve had these conversations along with industry out there, who worked hand in hand with the construction unions or with the manufacturers, like to understand what it looks like for them and how they can implement that within their own organization.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:10:55.66] Thank you for sharing. I find the non-traditional evolution of registered apprenticeships really interesting, especially in the areas of clean energy. You mentioned IT, finance, and then also health care. So it’s, it’s an, it’s a growing field.

Joshua Johnson: [00:11:13.12] Yes, it is. And it’s, it’s always, it’s one of those things where registered apprenticeship is, like, it’s, it’s a way to train people. And like, when you try to, when you get employers to understand that from those non-traditional sectors, when you can get them away from thinking that it has to look like construction, you get them to really see the value of what it brings to the table and how they can utilize it. So I agree. It’s, it’s fascinating and some of those other nontraditional sectors to see what has been built because you really see total thinking outside the box of how they build those programs. And I would tell you, in all honesty, those nontraditional sectors are the ones that have created the biggest challenge for success, not in a bad way, in a good way for the national system. Because they force the system to look at apprenticeship in a much different way, which allowed it to move out of its complacency, that it’s been in since the Fitzgerald Act at times in 1937. So I think, you know, it’s that fresh face, right? It’s like the new kid at the school. Everybody’s wondering, there’s this mystique about the new kid. And I think those new nontraditional sectors coming in, there was mystique around them and they were able to help drive some, some very good change within the system.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:12:27.10] New can be better. It pushes us to be better. So, October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month or NDEAM, can you tell us a little bit about how disability fits into the DEIA approach at JFF?

Joshua Johnson: [00:12:44.02] Definitely. So before I, before I talk about that, definitely have to tout NDEAM. Like when I worked for a Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, I loved NDEAM. It was interesting because in Wisconsin we have like stuff, we do little shoutouts, you know, it’d be like recognizing employers. And I took it a step up with my director at the time, who’s a good friend of mine, Lea Collins-Worachek. And I said, I want to hold an event like I want to really celebrate these employers who have hired individuals with disabilities and have helped them become successful. So I actually, I love NDEAM and I love what it really stands for, like how we can have support. Definitely those employers, but more importantly, the employees, right? That are coming in to those opportunities within, with, within those employers. But as we think about how it fits into our approach at JFF, one of the things that I can tell you that is, it is disheartening isn’t the right word, but it’s, it’s sometimes disappointing is the numbers of individuals with disabilities in the national apprenticeship system. And that isn’t for lack of trying. That really comes down to the fact that there’s a self-disclosure that an individual must make as part of the apprenticeship, right? You self-disclose that you have a disability. And many times as we have, as we have had conversations, we always look at it from the standpoint that it’s apprenticeships responsibility to really try to, to get individuals to self-disclose that they have a disability like because as part of our apprenticeship program you’ll be much more apt to self-disclose. But what we found is that’s just not true. There is a culture in the American workforce where individuals are fearful to disclose that they have a disability for fear of being discriminated against.

Joshua Johnson: [00:14:37.36] So what we’re looking at here with a great partner that we have from, from University of Massachusetts, the Institute for Community Inclusion, and they’re actually helping us take a look at all of the, the information that’s out in the apprenticeship world, helping us to look at it through a disability lense so that we can make sure we’re making individuals feel comfortable and knowing that apprenticeship is a welcoming and belonging culture. But more importantly, hopefully, we’re building that confidence in them that they do identify that they have disabilities so that we can find the supports that they need to be successful. On the flip side of it, with employers, it’s engaging those employers in conversation to understand that the A, accessibility, right? That that directly the a India directly relates to individuals with disabilities and how can we create opportunities that are accessible for everyone whether that’s creating a schedule that suits the person’s disability, whether that’s, whatever the person or whatever individuals that are coming to apply to their, or whatever they see as an opportunity to tap into that untapped talent pool, how can we help support them with the partners that we have here at JFF? And more importantly, how can we make sure that those apprentices, once they are hired in, how can we make sure that those apprentices are getting the support services they needed by helping the employer understand where to access those from? So it’s an integral part of the work we’re doing with the, with the Innovation Hub. It’s an integral part to really understand that. But it is, it is so frustrating to see the numbers so low because of the, the low amount of self-disclosure.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:16:24.14] I would say that’s incredibly frustrating because I do know a number of career coaches and other experts in the industry that discourage employees from disclosing or candidates from disclosing because they feel like it’s going to lead to discrimination. But really, it’s hard to showcase the impact that programs like yours are making on a particular area like people with disabilities.

Joshua Johnson: [00:16:52.61] Yeah, it’s interesting. If you don’t mind me to follow up to that. Like when I worked at DVR here in Wisconsin, one of the things that I laid out there was, hey, DVR needs to engage with apprenticeship. All the folks that are in, these folks who are looking for careers, they’re looking for opportunity. We should really engage them in apprenticeship and find ways to, you know, their, their goals that they have, their career goals or their employment goals, let’s align those with apprenticeship opportunities that exist. And it was always interesting because then I had a VR counselor, one of the counselors. He said, Josh, I’m surprised that you’re just now talking about this. He said, I always tell everyone that comes into my office about apprenticeship. Now, of course, I was like, Really? You know, I had to question that first. Like, really? You do? Then I went and met one day and we sat down and looked over his caseload. He had like ten of his consumers, his clients, they were registered apprentices. And it blew my mind at that point. I said, You know what, Larry, you are 100% correct. There is no reason that I should just now be talking about it here with Revoke Rehab when you’ve been doing it for years. And these individuals working in construction, they have disabilities in their working in construction, whether they had an intellectual disability, they were working just great in construction. In fact, one of them was an ironworker building bridges in Milwaukee during one of the road projects. So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s one of those things where they exist. I guarantee that the numbers of individual disabilities is, I’d say, 10 to 15 times what we see, what is being like, what, what is actually being recorded. But we will never be able to really tell that story until we can get past the self-disclosure part and help individuals understand it’s okay to disclose their disability.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:18:44.27] And that’s what we’re doing here. I would encourage employers, HR leaders to, to let  friends, family, colleagues, because people do look to us as HR leaders and ask questions about careers and jobs to encourage individuals to disclose for the very reasons that Joshua is mentioning. We can’t really measure the impact of the work that we’re doing if we don’t have the data and metrics behind the work that we’re doing. Another thing I wanted to, to touch on was on the employer side. So share with us maybe what employers need to know about the benefits of apprenticeship as a tool for obtaining talent and kind of to expand on that, what could our HR folks say to their C-suite colleagues to maybe pique their interest in using registered apprenticeship programs as a talent pipeline?

Joshua Johnson: [00:19:39.43] You know, I’ve always in conversations that I’ve had with employers, you know, we always talk about the fact that obtaining talent in this day and age is very, very, very hard. We obviously, with historically low unemployment rates, right? You’re looking for talent, and you, typically, as an employer, you look for talent in the exact same place you’ve looked for for the years since you were in since your company went through inception. And what I advise employers to think about now is how can you look at that differently? And what I mean by that is as an organization, you’re typically trying to obtain talent, whether it’s through the, through the day labor market, whether it’s through temp agencies. But you’ve never really thought about the organization as you are set up on how you can support bringing in a registered apprenticeship program. And once I have that conversation with employers and they understand what it means to be registered and what it looks like to train the light bulbs kind of go off for them in the sense that they realize that they own the ability now to recruit the talent that they want in. And they have a tool recognized as apprenticeship registered apprenticeship that’s highly recognized that they can utilize, utilize to help them with recruitment.

Joshua Johnson: [00:20:58.57] So, for instance, if you’re a manufacturer, many manufacturers hire incumbent workers and there’s other employers where the manufacturer is definitely one, typically, they want to see if they’re going to make it at the company. If you’re going to show up on time, right? If you’re going to show up at all. If we want to really get down to the bare roots of it. And you go there and you work for 6 to 9 months and they’ll post the registered apprenticeship opportunity that exists internally first, and then individuals internally will then compete or they’ll apply and compete for the, for that opportunity internally and then hire internally. Very rarely does it ever go outside of internal to external unless there’s just that major need or they couldn’t find the talent inside. So when I talk to employers, I use that example and let them know this is the opportunity for you when you’re doing your career fairs and when you’re doing your recruiting, that when you’re talking to individuals, you’re not selling them a job. I need you to come work here doing this, making this widget for this amount of dollars an hour. You can actually use apprenticeship as a tool for recruitment into a career pathway. Now, many employers don’t see that because they think about apprenticeship as a monolith, which means, like me, I was a construction craft laborer, right? So I should, theoretically, in the apprenticeship world, I should be a construction craft laborer for the rest of my life.

Joshua Johnson: [00:22:22.81] I should retire as a construction craft laborer. I should not do anything else. Well, we know that’s not true because I’m on the call here with you all now. But that’s the mentality that we have to continue to change. And when I share that with employers and talk about how they can utilize apprenticeship to recruit into a career pathway, it really opens their mind up to much more deeper thinking than they’ve ever had before because they didn’t think about it like that. They thought of it as we’re getting people in, we’re going to put them through this program. And especially when I talk about your, your recruiting for underrepresented or underserved communities, what better ways to create diversity and inclusion at your place of employment than when you meet with individuals, say, we have this career pathway already planned out for you. This is guaranteed. If you come in at this role and you do good, you’re going to go into this, right? But that doesn’t mean that’s where it stops. We can also then branch you over into here. You can go into management, so on and so forth. So it’s really helping employers understand how to use it for much more than just a training model, but really how to obtain talent in a very, very aggressive job market. People don’t want to come work for employers that they’re just going to be a number. They want to come work for employers that they know care about them.

Joshua Johnson: [00:23:39.52] And as we think about the HR folks, one of the things I always say is the goal, my goal as state director and now as, as the National Director with JFF, my goal is to help our employers compete locally, nationally, and globally. And the only way that you can do that is to create a diverse pipeline into your organization. You need to have that diversity. And many times people only think of diversity as race, right? That’s another thing that we have to continue to dispel is diversity comes in many different flavors. It’s not just race. So when you’re thinking about creating those using registered apprenticeship to create that diverse pipeline, you start to think about what you get into your organization that’s going to constantly help you stay on the cutting edge in your industry. So for the C-suite colleagues, so many of them are looking down, they’re looking at the books, they’re looking at profit and losses, look at apprenticeship as one of those things that’s going to help increase profit because it’s going to bring in bottom line money. But then it’s also going to bring in morale. It’s going to bring in this culture within your organization that you are an organization that’s dedicated to helping develop everyone that wants to be developed inside that organization.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:24:53.50] Thank you for sharing. I think this conversation is so important and HR leaders, executive leaders need to be thinking about how to fill that talent funnel consistently. And apprenticeships are such a great way to help make that happen.

Joshua Johnson: [00:25:09.55] Agreed.

Break: [00:25:10.36] Let’s take a reset, shall we? This is Jessica Miller-Merrell, and you’re listening to the Workology Podcast and today on this episode, we are talking with Joshua Johnson. He’s the Director of Jobs for the Future’s National Innovation Hub for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Registered Apprenticeship. This podcast is part of a podcast series powered by the  Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship or PIA. I do want to hear from you. Shoot me a text. Text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. You can ask me questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you.

Break: [00:25:54.52] 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 US 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.

JFF’s DEIA Program Framework


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:26:31.71] Thank you for all that. Really. I wanted to make sure we’re going to link to some additional resources in the show notes of this podcast, particularly in one area, which is the DEIA program framework. So I wanted you to give us some highlights from JFF’s recently launched DEIA program framework, if you will.

Joshua Johnson: [00:26:53.90] Yeah, we’re really excited about this work as it was released, you know, because of apprenticeship, apprenticeship, like we talk about the high-quality job training that it provides and how it can be a springboard to family-supporting jobs. So many hold that assumption because of those, those two qualities that these programs alone are enough to diversify the workforce and improve equity, inclusion, accessibility. But the unfortunate reality is that the system largely mirrors the patterns of inequality in the broader workforce through representation, wages, retention, and the other measures of inclusion along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender and ability. The JFF’s program design framework for DEIA in Registered Apprenticeship offers some field-informed program design elements and considerations that move beyond simply enrolling diverse participants into a program. We have to get away from this idea that we can just enroll people in it and we’re going to be successful. But instead, it really focuses on building systems, processes, partnerships and practices that drive equity across each stage of the apprenticeship experience. There’s a series of recommendations based on some promising practices of the field, because this, this document was informed by the field. It was created through, through the informing by the field. So some of the things that we look at here is employer readiness. When we talk about employers being ready to take on an apprenticeship, I always talk to employers when I have a conversation. I, one of the biggest things I say is when you want to talk about creating a diverse workforce, which then will hopefully lead to a diverse apprenticeship workforce, take a look in your C-suite.

Joshua Johnson: [00:28:45.19] Take a look at your, your board of directors. Is it all the same looking people on those board of directors in your C-suite, in your management positions? Where do you have diversity there? And if you do have diversity, do you have true diversity or do you have diversity just so in the public eye, you look like a diverse company? So we talk about employer readiness. That’s one of the biggest things we think about is representation. You have to have the representation in place. Otherwise, how are you going to attract individuals to come into your organization? And it’s not just saying we’re all about DEI, but making a clear commitment to it with internal and external stakeholders, and that’s through activities that are ongoing within your organization, as well as well-defined policies that will drive that equity across the organization. Another way is establish those DEI goals and clearly articulate the value of DEI to the organization. So when I think about employers, that’s that’s the focus that I have, is what is your commitment? Are you truly all on board or is this just to look good in the public eye that we have this? There were other, other topics that were definitely identified within there around recruitment, accessible and representative instruction, quality mentorship. We talk about retention services, definitely identifying and partnering with workforce boards, CBOs to get access to those retention services for the workers. And we think about, you know, for those of you who are listening to this podcast, the broader definition in the workforce of WIOA, how can you get folks engaged so that they can receive the supportive services they need to be successful? Also looking at livable wages and advancement opportunities, utilizing apprenticeship in a way that you are giving individuals the ability to come in at a low wage but then continue to move up and even after the apprenticeship to move on and advance within your organization.

Joshua Johnson: [00:30:41.29] Equitable data practices and participant voice in a culture of belonging. Those were, those are the broader design elements definitely, that are in place to go along with the organizational conditions of leadership and staff diversity and employer readiness, which I spoke about. And throughout all of that, there’s partnerships and that’s where JFF stands to assist employers in implementing this framework. And we’re really big on saying this framework isn’t just because you have an apprenticeship program, all employers should have this type of framework built in. Because it really is about a structure of a framework. There isn’t, throughout here, there isn’t an idea that’s focused on one specific underserved community. It really is a skeleton framework that you can fit in whatever underserved community is needed to be put into it and how you can create that framework with inside your organization. So we’re really excited about this work and we’ll be launching. We’ll be doing a webinar during National Apprenticeship Week that will highlight the framework. It’s also out and you said you’re going to share the link. Individuals can access that link as well as many of our other resources in the innovation hub as they’re continuing to rather have discussions about creating establishing DEI goals or if they’re already a registered apprenticeship employer and they want us to help achieve those DEI goals.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:32:09.73] So for those who are like, when is National Apprenticeship Week? And NAW. It’s the eighth Annual and that is happening November 14th through the 20th. So we have a webinar and the DEIA program framework plans. What other special events do you have in store?

Joshua Johnson: [00:32:27.61] So we are still shaping out our, our, our plan for National Apprenticeship Week within JFF. I will give, with this disclaimer, what I will throw out there is there, if you go to apprenticeship.gov, so I will speak to the national system, apprenticeship.gov has the, has a tracker on the website where you can find events that are going on all across the country. That was one of, I will be honest National Apprenticeship Week was my Christmas. You know, as we get older you don’t get gifts anymore. You get like socks and underwear, right? From the kids. We’re like, Hey, I thought you like this. So National Apprenticeship Week was my Christmas because it was my opportunity to showcase employers. Same thing here at JFF is we’ll be looking at showcasing not only the products we’ve designed, but our partners who are working together to create success in the national system, but also elevate those promising practices and really support the work that’s being done within the national system. So I know that our partners have a few events going on that week. I know that our partner, Apprenticeship Carolina is one of our partners and they have a few in-person events planned, which I’m sure will be on the apprenticeship website. Apprentice School and Newport News has some, some social media stuff planned that they’ll be getting information out of our apprenticeship. The Center for Minority Serving Institutions, they’ll be doing a series of events to talk about their newly released report on minority-serving institutions and apprenticeship. So be some things going on. I don’t want it to be like I’m being top secret, but we have some stuff that’s cooking. It’s on the simmer button right now, but over the next, I’d say two or three weeks we’ll be turning the heat up to medium heat so we can start, so we can start boiling it. So please follow us on. For those of you out there, follow us on, on all of the social media channels to see more information about what we’re doing for National Apprenticeship Week at JFF.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:34:30.16] Apprenticeship.gov is the home base to find out all the things. Last question for you. What is your top-of-the-list advice for employers who want to start an apprenticeship program?

Joshua Johnson: [00:34:44.17] Well, I started by saying it’s actually not the top of the list of vice. The question, what have you been waiting on? You know, we always have employers who come to us and said, look, the best time to start an apprenticeship program was five years ago. But the second best time is now. And any advice that I would give to an employer is, number one, look across your workforce. Do you have an ageing workforce? Do you have a workforce that is not diverse? Utilize apprenticeship to change those dynamics within your workforce. Do you have a workforce that with proper training or with recognised training at the state and national level that can help your business go to the next level, that can improve productivity? That can improve your revenue? If, if the answer is yes, that, that you have that workforce, who is ready to do that then investigating looking to apprenticeship program definitely is right up your alley. I would say the second part of that advice would be please don’t be scared off by conversations you’ve heard had or heard or rumors that you’ve heard about the apprenticeship system being very hard to navigate. The national system has come a very long way in the ten years that I’ve been a part of the national system, to really get more streamlined and focused on helping employers engage and get started immediately.

Joshua Johnson: [00:36:06.43] Gone are the times where it takes an employer due to the state or federal government. Gone are those times where it’s going to take a year for a program to build. If it takes that long, it’s because the employer is taking that long. It’s no longer because of state and federal government. So my suggestion is reach out to us as you’re thinking about building and registering apprenticeship program with equity at the centre and we can connect you. There are programs within JFF, there are projects within JFF that register apprenticeship programs. But more importantly, don’t believe the hype around apprenticeships being hard to access for employers. They are not. They are very easy. Actually very proud to see the industry recognize Apprenticeship program was finally put to rest the other day where that was a system that was created that was supposed to be easier and better and a parallel system to the national system. But please don’t be afraid and think that it’s going to be hard to start a program. So those are the top two things. Look at your workforce. That’s my advice. Look at your workforce. Can your workforce benefit from a high-quality training program? Could it help you recruit more diverse talent into your workforce? Could it allow your workforce, your current entry-level workforce, to grow within your organization into leadership roles? And then secondly, don’t listen to all the hype that apprenticeship is hard to access for employers because it’s not.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:37:41.23] Well, Joshua, this has been fantastic. Lots of great resources and insights that you shared. We have a whole host of additional resources on the transcript of this Workology Podcast. I want to thank you so much for taking time to share with us all your knowledge, your story. It’s been fantastic.

Joshua Johnson: [00:37:58.60] Thank you. I want to thank you all so much for having me. And I only know how to be one way and that’s to be real. And I have a passion in this apprenticeship world and in the national system. And I truly have a passion that falls in line with JFF, which is why I join them, which is we really want to create economic mobility for all. And we believe that apprenticeship is just one way, but such an impactful way to create that economic mobility, given individuals the opportunity to come in, as I talked about, with little to no experience and walk out highly skilled in occupation. What better way, as we talk about getting folks not only to the middle class but getting to the upper class? And what better way than we talk about addressing those systemic barriers of disenfranchisement for underserved communities, then to utilize the registered apprenticeship model and the structure, and especially when we focus on individual disabilities who many times folks want to put a tag on individuals disabilities and say that they’re different, but we are all 100% the exact same. It’s all about what an employer does to make sure we feel like we belong at that employer and what tools they give us to be, to have those opportunities accessible to us. So thank you again, and I look forward to hearing from anyone who listens to this podcast. Reach out to JFF as you continue to look at building, as an employer building inclusive register apprenticeship programs.

Closing: [00:39:29.11] Apprenticeships are such an amazing way to grow the talent pool for your company and your industry. You might not know this but JFF even has an HR apprenticeship program. It’s a fabulous way to gain experience and insights to put into practice as soon to be HR leader. You’re an HR apprentice. How cool is that? Plus, apprenticeships, these are inclusive of people with disabilities and they offer a great way to add diversity to your workforce, as Joshua mentioned, including veterans and other underserved communities. These individuals experience greater levels of disability. I appreciate Joshua share this experience with us today on the Workology Podcast, and thanks to  PIA and our Workology Podcast sponsor, Ace The HR Exam and Upskill HR.

Closing: [00:40:21.28] Before you go, I want to hear from you. Shoot me a text. Text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. Ask me questions, leave comments, and make suggestions. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. This podcast is for the disruptive workplace leader who’s tired of the status quo. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell and until next time you can visit Workology.com to listen to all our Workology Podcast episodes.

Connect with Joshua Johnson.



– Joshua Johnson on LinkedIn

– Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship

– Jobs for the Future (JFF) 

– JFF’s Program Design Framework for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Registered Apprenticeship

– Apprenticeship.gov

– National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2022 | U.S. Department of Labor 

– National Apprenticeship Week

– Episode 368: Apprenticeship Programs to Keep Apprentices in the Company With Nicholas Morgan, ACS

– Episode 356: Motivation, Determination and Aptitude With Earl Dube, Information Technology Intern at Macro Connect

– Episode 351: Creating a Truly Inclusive Workplace With PIA and PEAT

– Episode 343: The Benefits of Creating Opportunities for People With Disabilities With Pat Romzek | Workology 

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