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Aug 1 -- The Department of Labor (DOL) is submitting this Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)-sponsored Research to Support the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship (PIA)—Survey to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Comments are invited by August 31, 2022.

The Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship (PIA) focuses on engagement and outreach strategies to promote and implement inclusive practices within apprenticeship programs, such as those registered with the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Apprenticeship. These strategies aim to enable individuals with disabilities, including working-age youth and adults ages 16-64, to gain credentials and skills to succeed in growing industries. PIA also seeks to glean federal and state policy options through such outreach and engagement, which includes several stakeholder engagement and outreach activities. The Office of Disability Employment Policy of DOL intends to design and conduct a process evaluation of the DOL-funded PIA. The goal of this four-year study is to build an understanding of the experiences, barriers, and successes of PIA during the implementation of the partnership.
 
The DOL and industry have invested billions of dollars over the past decade to encourage, develop and expand industry-driven apprenticeship training nationwide. Much of the federal investment is through program grants and technical assistance. The breadth of apprenticeship investments has resulted in a diverse sectoral, geographic, and institutional mix of apprenticeship programs and projects. In 2016, DOL announced a final rule prohibiting discrimination based on disability status in registered apprenticeship programs. That rule went into effect in 2017 and requires employers to invite apprentices to self-identify as people with disabilities both before hiring and during the apprenticeship. This project seeks to build the evidence base on apprenticeship that is inclusive of people with disabilities in three ways: 1) careful review of existing evidence and information; 2) rigorous process study to understand the experiences of the PIA initiative; and 3) technical assistance on data and outcomes to measure progress and success in inclusive apprenticeship.

The PIA initiative is the largest federal investment in promoting inclusive apprenticeship and the primary focus of the research project. PIA collaborates with employers and apprenticeship intermediary organizations (AIOs) to design inclusive apprenticeship programs that meet employer talent needs and enable people with disabilities to gain credentials and skills to succeed in growing industries.

Although the evidence base on apprenticeship in the U.S. is growing, there are still several key knowledge gaps that are ripe for rigorous evaluations and evidence-building. Policymakers, researchers, evaluators, and practitioners are generally persuaded that apprenticeship has positive net benefits, but more evidence is needed on what models and strategies are most appropriate for supporting and increasing the representation of people with disabilities in apprenticeship.

Data collection for the Research to Support the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship project is necessary to understand the implementation of PIA and the models and strategies piloted by PIA that could be used to support apprentices with disability in other registered apprenticeship programs. The overall study is comprised of several components: (1) A knowledge development phase to understand what is currently known about inclusive apprenticeship programs, review the literature on inclusive apprenticeship, and analyze existing data on inclusive apprenticeship; (2) technical assistance to PIA and its partners to understand and enhance their use of data for process improvement; and (3) a process evaluation of the implementation of PIA.

The data collected through the activities summarized in this request will be used to conduct a process study of the PIA to document all facets of the employer-apprentice lifecycle, including an understanding of the engagement between employers, apprenticeship intermediaries, and workforce systems; respondent perceptions on how to recruit, engage or incentivize employers to plan and implement inclusive apprenticeship programs, as well as connect with the workforce; identify perceived challenges and promising practices when engaging employers and implementing inclusive apprenticeship designs; identify and document perceived promising approaches on effective engagements and incentives with employers; identify and describe any observed promising practices in tracking and sharing information on inclusive apprenticeship enrollments, onboarding, and success; identify the business case for continued inclusive apprenticeship programs; and, inform other interested audiences, including DOL officials and staff, as well as other state and local agencies and other partners, about the findings from the project.

The study will address the following research questions:

1.    What activities are PIA and its partners engaged in to expand inclusive apprenticeship opportunities?
2.    What is currently known about program-level policies and practices for inclusive apprenticeships instituted by employers or AIOs that appear promising for promoting career pathways for people with disabilities?
3.    What is known about the supports, services, and tools and technologies provided to individual apprentices that can be integrated in inclusive apprenticeship programs that assist in achieving sustained employment and retention for people with disabilities participating as apprentices?
4.    What state and federal policies are perceived as promising to affect the rate and likelihood of people with disabilities participating in apprenticeship programs?
5.    What are federal agencies, particularly the Office of Apprenticeship but also other agencies involved in apprenticeship expansion, doing to promote greater inclusion for people with disabilities?
6.    What are industry associations and state and local government doing to promote policy and practices driving greater inclusion for people with disabilities in apprenticeship programs and sustained employment opportunities?
7.    What is the business value of operating an inclusive apprenticeship program for employers?
8.    What strategies for inclusive apprenticeship appear to improve labor market outcomes for persons with disabilities?
9.    What strategies for starting and promoting inclusive apprenticeship seem promising? What are the ain obstacles to starting an inclusive apprenticeship program or participating in an existing inclusive apprenticeship program?
10.    How many persons with a disability participate in apprenticeships, and what are their characteristics? How many inclusive apprenticeships currently exist?

The evidence generated by the evaluation will be relevant not only to PIA and their AIO partners, but to ODEP staff assessing current and future apprenticeship and employment initiatives for people with disabilities, and to employers, training institutions and workforce development partners seeking knowledge and evidence about effective models for supporting inclusive apprenticeship. The evidence will identify models used by inclusive apprenticeship programs that are perceived to be useful or successful, which can be considered by ODEP and other apprenticeship programs who are implementing their own models. The evidence will also identify barriers and challenges perceived by AIOs and inclusive apprenticeship programs. These perceived barriers and challenges can be used by ODEP in their planning to support future employment and apprenticeship initiatives.

This Federal Register Notice provides the opportunity to comment on three proposed data collection instruments that will be used in the evaluations:

1. Survey of PIA Apprenticeship Intermediary Organizations (AIOs), partners, and community of practice members. Survey of up to 90 AIOs, partner organizations, and community of practice members to collect information on their role in PIA and their experiences with inclusive apprenticeship programs.

2. Topic guide for site visit interviews with AIO program staff and partners. Virtual semi-structured interviews with up to 12 program and partner staff for each of the approximately 6 AIOs partnering under PIA, beginning fall 2021.

3. Focus group guide for apprentices. Virtual semi-structured focus groups with up to 60 apprentices enrolled in inclusive apprenticeship programs, assuming that all ten invited apprentices at approximately 6 AIOs partnering under PIA agree to participate, beginning fall 2022.
 
PIA webpage: https://inclusiveapprenticeship.org/
Submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202201-1230-001 Click on IC List for collection instrument, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this site.
FR notice inviting public comment: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-16373
 
For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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