By: Justin Tapp, Guest Contributor and Abeer Sikder, Policy Analyst
In honor of Black History Month, The Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) recently discussed intersectionality and disability employment with Justin Tapp, graduate student and disability leader.
Youth and young adults with disabilities (Y&YADs) are a diverse community, in terms of not only disability type, but also race and ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. While Y&YADs face barriers to education, training and employment, those who have intersectional identities may face additional challenges. For example, the jobless rate for Black Americans with disabilities (15.1 percent) in 2021 was higher than the rates for other racial minority groups. Yet Black Y&YADs and other Y&YADs with overlapping identities can also leverage their unique perspectives, strengths and support systems to address these challenges and promote greater inclusion in the workforce, across multiple factors.
Justin Tapp, who was born with Klippel-Feil syndrome and scoliosis, is an individual doing just that. Justin identifies as African American, LGBTQ+ and disabled. He earned a bachelor’s degree in disability studies and political science from the University of Toledo and is currently working toward a master’s degree in science in social administration from Case Western Reserve University. Previously, Justin was a 2019 Policy Fellow at RespectAbility and worked as a Learning Disability Specialist in higher education before taking on his current role at a community health organization.
Recently, Justin discussed his experiences in disability studies, self-advocacy and networking, as well as his thoughts on effective policy for supporting the success of future generations of diverse Y&YADs.
January is National Mentoring Month. While mentoring relationships benefit all youth, they may have a particularly positive impact on youth who face barriers to education and employment—such as youth with disabilities and especially those who may have intersecting identities.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), disability mentoring occurs when a person with a disability provides advice and support to another person, usually someone with a similar disability. Mentoring can be short-term in nature, such as a single-day job shadowing opportunity or career exploration experience, which could occur on National Job Shadow Day on February 2, 2023 or on National Mentoring Day on October 27, 2023. Mentoring could also reflect a more robust ongoing relationship between a mentor and youth with regularly scheduled meetings focused on supporting the youth in planning and achieving their goals. The relationship often focuses on a specific task, such as living independently, recovering from a traumatic event, obtaining employment or transitioning into the workforce. The mentor serves as a role model and provides information and guidance specific to the mentee’s experiences and identified needs.
Current estimates show that 7.7 to 23 million people in the U.S. have experienced Long COVID or its associated conditions. The CDC defines Long COVID as anyone experiencing ongoing, long-term conditions as a result of having been infected with the COVID-19 virus. Long COVID symptoms can last weeks, months or even years. Furthermore, the symptoms of Long COVID can qualify someone as an individual with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if these symptoms substantially limit one or more major life activities, including employment and education. Youth and young adults with a Long COVID disability may need assistance understanding their disability, understanding their employment and education rights, and navigating systems of support.
Each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) celebrates the contributions workers with disabilities make to building a vibrant, resilient workforce. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) selects a theme for the month and shares resources for employers, policymakers and other workforce stakeholders. The theme this year, “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation,” recognizes “the vital role people with disabilities play in making the nation’s workforce diverse and inclusive.” The theme also highlights the intersectionality of disability with other systemic inequalities, such as racial and gender discrimination.
Observed each February, Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month® celebrates the importance of CTE and the accomplishments of related programs across the nation. The Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) explains that “CTE is education that directly prepares students for high-wage, high-demand careers. CTE covers many different fields, including health care, information technology, advanced manufacturing, hospitality and management, and many more. […] CTE encompasses many different types of education, from classroom learning to certification programs to work-based learning opportunities outside the classroom.”
By: Luke Byram, CAPE-Youth O’Connor Scholar Intern
January is National Disability Mentoring Month.
According to Partners for Youth with Disabilities Mentoring Director Kristin Humphrey, mentoring is a critical disability inclusion strategy that promotes positive academic, employment and independent living outcomes. Partners for Youth with Disabilities indicate that mentored youth:
are more engaged in school,
know more about their career options,
raise stronger voices as self-advocates and
find supportive communities more often.
The results of a 2014 study by MENTOR National show “that young adults who were at risk for falling off track but had a mentor were 130% more likely to hold leadership positions.” The same study shows that “mentored youth were 78% more likely to volunteer regularly and 90% were interested in becoming a mentor.” When youth have positive experiences with mentoring, they are more likely to become mentors themselves.
Students with disabilities benefit from work-based mentoring as much or more than their peers without disabilities. Work-based mentorship helps students with disabilities:
raise awareness of mentoring in its various forms,
recruit mentors and
recruit organizations to engage constituents in mentoring.
During National Disability Mentoring Month, national partners work with local leaders to organize special events in their communities and invite local media outlets and public officials to attend. These events also help engage adults who are interested in becoming mentors.
Every year, MENTOR holds an event called the National Mentoring Summit that brings together public and private-sector leaders who support the mentoring movement, including:
government and civic leaders,
MENTOR Affiliates and
supporting partner organizations.
The National Mentoring Summit is an opportunity for the mentoring movement to advocate for a policy agenda that strengthens mentoring programs and practices. The 12th Annual National Mentoring Summit will be held as a hybrid event from January 26-28, 2022, in Washington D.C.
The seventh annual National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) takes place November 15-21, 2021. NAW is a nationwide celebration where industry, labor, workforce, education and government leaders host events to showcase the successes and value of Registered Apprenticeships for re-building our economy, advancing equity and supporting underserved communities.
Apprenticeships are employer-driven programs that provide hands-on technical training for individuals seeking new skills and employment. Training and instruction are tailored to help the apprentice master skills needed to succeed in a specific occupation. Apprenticeship is a high-quality career pathway, with 92% of apprentices retaining employment in their field and earning an average starting salary of $72,000. Employers utilize these programs to train new employees as well as reskill their existing employees to meet changing demands, resulting in a steady pool of qualified workers. These programs also benefit state governments by lowering unemployment rates and attracting new industries. The Job Corps website contains examples of apprenticeships from programs in industries ranging from automotive and machine repair to homeland security.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has taken several steps to increase inclusion and accessibility in apprenticeship programs. According to DOL, between 2017 and 2019 the number of apprentices who identify as having a disability increased 550%. Research shows that participation in apprenticeship programs produces a number of benefits for students with disabilities, including experience, employability skills and nationally recognized credentials. An apprenticeship can be a viable career pathway for more than 1.3 million young people with a disability between the ages of 16 and 24.
States are increasingly enacting policies engineered to increase the inclusion and engagement of youth with disabilities in apprenticeship programs. Below are a few examples:
New Jersey’s Youth Transition to Work (YTTW) Program provides multiple financial incentives for employers hiring youth apprentices, with an emphasis on targeted industries such as health care, information technology or public service.
Louisiana’s Postsecondary Apprenticeship Pilot for Youth (PAY Check) is a three-to-five semester program that allows transition age youth with disabilities to take classes at Delgado Community College related to specific apprenticeship areas, participate in career development activities, learn community and work skills, and gain employment experience through a paid apprenticeship at the University Medical Center.
The Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) is excited to announce the release of our new research web page.
This page outlines opportunities to get involved with CAPE-Youth’s research initiatives on innovative policy and programmatic approaches to improving outcomes for youth and young adults with disabilities. Input from policymakers, professionals and state agencies who serve youth and young adults is vital to these efforts.
The Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) is excited to announce the release of our new apprenticeship web page. This page offers examples of inclusive apprenticeships in states and resources for expanding diversity and inclusion in apprenticeship, such as recently published briefs from the Apprenticeship Inclusion Model (AIM).