IWPR Sees Apprenticeship as a Powerful Remedy to Workplace Inequities

Organization Summary:

A stubborn gender pay gap across the board and low participation of women in many well-paying occupations calls for program and policy solutions centered on equity of pay and opportunity. Based on the need for increased understanding of the ways that workforce issues intersect with gender, race, and family, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) lends their research expertise to frame policy conversations at the federal, state, and local level.

Founded in 1987, IWPR focuses its work on equity of opportunity and pay for women, including work on support for working parents, access to quality education, and equity in the workforce. Based in Washington, DC, the think tank now includes research teams addressing current policy challenges ranging from access to childcare to immigration reform to women’s inclusion in growing fields in the current labor force. Stemming from their long experience in family and social policy, education attainment, and the economic situation of women, IWPR expanded their research and policy base into apprenticeship – touching on many of the organization’s priorities – in 2010.

Overview of Apprenticeship Efforts:

As part of the Apprenticeship Forward Collaborative, IWPR contributes their expertise on gender equity in the workforce and their determination to see quality apprenticeships lead people of all genders to family-sustaining wages in inclusive, family-supportive workplaces. As work typically done by women tends to pay less than work typically done by men, the organization sees potential for increasing women’s entry into well-paying, male-dominated fields by leveraging the apprenticeship model.

The organization’s 2016 report, Pathways to Equity, found that women tend to be significantly underrepresented in the well-paid, middle-skill occupations with the largest projected job growth. Fields that rely on apprenticeship to move new workers into good jobs and full occupational proficiency also tend to be those in which women are vastly underrepresented. Apprenticeships in construction, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, IT, and other growing technical fields are offering pathways to the skilled workforce of the future for employers. As apprenticeships help employers redesign how they train workers, they can at the same time be a lever for changing who is being trained and employed in these in-demand jobs.

Not all apprenticeship opportunities are created equal, and IWPR’s work focuses on increasing women’s access to apprenticeships that lead to a well-paying job. Apprenticeship has traditionally been used, and is still most popular, in male-dominated fields such as construction. However, construction and other skilled trades often pay well, and registered apprenticeships in these fields provide a clear and well-paid career path to industry-recognized skills. Building an apprenticeship system that is more gender-integrated can boost women’s earnings and help employers reap the benefits of more diverse, productive workforces. Having long researched increasing women’s access to well-paying jobs in the skilled trades, IWPR has created a portfolio of work on apprenticeship as a proven strategy for entry into a skilled trade job.

IWPR’s Job Training Success Project looks at how accessing supportive services – such as child care, transportation, and cash assistance – can help individuals complete training and apprenticeships. Another topic of interest to IWPR is the schedule and structure of apprenticeships. Some, namely in construction occupations, have apprentices working the day shift and attending classes for related training in the evenings. That schedule won’t always work for individuals with care responsibilities – or anyone trying to learn after a full day’s work. IWPR hopes to see more flexible programs designed with the variety of needs of apprentices and their families in mind.

IWPR continues to provide analysis on gender and work, and these themes will factor into ongoing research on artificial intelligence, automation, and women’s occupations.

Information about Local Partners:

IWPR partnered with the National Center for Gender Equity in Apprenticeships and Employment at Chicago Women in the Trades (CWIT) to produce five briefing papers on the state of women in the trades in support of measures to recruit and retain women in these traditionally male-dominated occupations. Their research as a subcontractor to CWIT’s U.S. Department of Labor Diversity in Apprenticeship contract includes a look at what apprenticeship and other job training programs can do to address domestic and intimate partner violence—an issue job training administrators say is a key unmet need—and how women-only pre-apprenticeship programs can help women enter manufacturing apprenticeships. IWPR is also conducting research for Oregon Department of Labor on benefits to employers as a result of Oregon’s child care supports for apprentices in highway construction trades. 

Interested in learning more about IWPR's work? Contact them at iwpr@iwpr.org for additional information.