2023 Josh Christianson (3)

‘We are overdue as a country to provide equitable, inclusive, and accessible employment opportunities for all.’

Reflections on The Future of Work 2023 from WorkingNation Advisory Board member Josh Christianson

We asked our WorkingNation Advisory Board to share their thoughts on the most important issues and challenges facing the workforce and the labor market in the coming year.

Josh Christianson is a passionate advocate for workplace diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) and is the accessibility practice lead at The Cadmus Company.

Here are his thoughts on The Future of Work 2023.

“Two of the most important workforce drivers to advance the economy and employment in the U.S. are implementation of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) strategies in the workplace and Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs). Both are levers to help companies find, hire, train, and retain a diverse workforce now and in the future.

Combining the two – especially in certain high-growth, high-demand sectors for historically-underserved communities – is where I think we could make the biggest gains.

I have been converted. After years of work in higher education, promoting it as the path for marginalized populations to change their life for the better, I am now an even bigger proponent of apprenticeships to achieve that end.

For an apprentice, you earn while you learn, receiving foundational knowledge in a virtual or in-person classroom, hands-on job training, and mentorship, with a 93% yield from apprentice to full-time employee. We have seen apprenticeships in the trade for decades, but in recent years they have expanded into industries such as clean energy, IT, cybersecurity, health care, and finance.

All of these sectors are experiencing a skills gap, which is only slated to expand if industry leaders don’t find new ways to attract and retain skilled workers.

With a registered apprenticeship program, employers are able to train people in the skills unique to their industries, expand their talent pool outside of traditional college graduates, and diversify their workforce. And their impact is measurable. The ROI of apprenticeships includes reduced recruitment and training costs, lower turnover, and the median return on investment for employers is $144 for every $100 spent

We are overdue as a country to provide equitable, inclusive, and accessible employment opportunities for all. That said, investment and spending in DEIA is growing exponentially, with an estimated $15.6B in annual spending by 2026, and more and more organizations are focusing on creating DEIA-driven workplaces that consider the needs of diverse communities through an intersectional lens.

Prioritizing DEIA in apprenticeship can bolster workplace DEIA efforts, helping employers attract and retain more diverse teams, create more career opportunities for underserved communities, and help companies perform better during a tight labor market. 

My job is to increase access to inclusive and accessible career opportunities for people with disabilities, and to help make apprenticeship programs more accessible.

Only about 38% of people with disabilities are employed – compared to 76% of people without disabilities. Apprenticeships that are designed to be inclusive of people with disabilities opens up an untapped talent pool for employers struggling to find skilled candidates.

This talent pool has only been made wider by the move to telework, which has increased job opportunities for people with disabilities who work from home. The results of which were seen during the pandemic with an unprecedented spike in employment of people with disabilities.

Additionally, when a company or program focuses on inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities, they support their DEIA efforts more broadly. Creating procedures, systems, and protocols from a universal design perspective ensures as many humans as possible can succeed in a given workplace. 

Traditionally, companies have focused their efforts on the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), but in the past year, efforts have expanded to include the A (accessibility) in DEIA.

Ensuring a workplace is accessible is essential if we want to create truly inclusive workplaces and apprenticeship programs.

While 1 in 5 U.S adults identifies as a person with a disability, the number is higher for Black Americans (1 in 4), women (1 in 4), veterans (1 in 3), formerly incarcerated (2 in 5), and American Indians/Alaskan Natives (2 in 5).

The numbers illustrate why companies should embrace the A in DEIA to ensure all current and future employees and apprentices are supported.”

You can read all The Future of Work 2023 articles from our WorkingNation Advisory Board here.