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How Can Skill-Based Apprenticeships Scale Racial Inclusion in Tech?

Kapor Center, Opportunity@Work Launch Collaboration on Tech Apprenticeship

With unemployment rates for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous workers double the rate of their white counterparts as the economy recovers from COVID-19, 2021 National Apprenticeship Week highlights the critical need for new entry paths into tech for communities of color. We can no longer ignore how disparities in access to college education and job opportunity have long left such groups structurally excluded from higher-wage tech jobs and concentrated in low-wage roles most vulnerable to automation.

As the pandemic has continued to accelerate digitization across industries and to increase demand for higher-wage tech skills, traditional college pathways have not supplied workers fast enough. To fill this talent gap with urgency, pioneering employers are now seeking alternative models that emphasize skills over college degree requirements or pedigree.

One such growing model in tech is apprenticeship, which goes beyond internship to uniquely combine structured coursework, paid on-the-job learning, and skill-based milestones tied to job conversion. Often they’re the only pathway into tech for those without college degrees. While data shows that 90% of apprentices successfully convert to full time roles, 70% of registered tech apprentices are White — reinforcing tech’s dismal racial homogeneity.

The Kapor Center has collaborated with a growing number of employers piloting and scaling apprenticeship programs to help boost racial diversity in tech. With many structural obstacles in the way, there’s a need for digestible, actionable, and evidence-based tools to serve as a compass for internal champions. While valuable resources exist that address inclusion in apprenticeship writ large, more guidance is needed that (1) is explicit around racial inclusion (2) is specific to tech workplace culture (3) speaks to the nuanced needs of pioneering tech workers leading these efforts, who are navigating in uncharted territory, and (4) that centers the voices of talented apprentices of color.

To address these gaps, we’re excited to build an actionable tool around racially inclusive tech apprenticeship with Opportunity@Work’s STAR Studio. The STAR Studio partners with world-renowned design firm IDEO to build fresh, human-centered tools that make our labor market more inclusive of individuals without college degrees — a.k.a. those who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs). Opportunity@Work has uncovered that employers who require college degrees are automatically excluding 76% of Black individuals and 83% of the Latinx population — reinforcing the inextricable link between racial inclusion and skill-based hiring models like apprenticeship.

With $87.5 million in U.S. Department of Labor funding announced to scale inclusive apprenticeship in emerging fields, and with tech facing unprecedented pressure to follow through on post-George Floyd equity hiring commitments, the need for internal champions who can activate their organization around racially inclusive tech apprenticeship is urgent. We hope you’ll join us in advancing this important movement.

To be notified when the tool is launched, or to participate in our design research with individuals/organizations seeking to establish or strengthen inclusive tech apprenticeships, please fill out this form.

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About the Kapor Center

The Kapor family of organizations works to remove barriers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education and tech careers for underrepresented people of color. We take a comprehensive approach to fixing the leaks at every stage of the tech pipeline, from K-12 education through the workplace with education programs, advocacy, and social impact investing. To learn more visit and follow @KaporCenter.

About Opportunity@Work

Opportunity@Work is a nonprofit organization that increases career opportunities for the more than 70 million adults in the United States who do not have a four-year college degree but are Skilled Through Alternative Routes — or “STARs.” We build products, tools, and solutions that enable companies to hire STARs based on in-demand skills — not pedigree. Together with employers, educators, workforce leaders, and philanthropists, Opportunity@Work is rewiring the labor market for STARs to unlock their full earning potential. To learn more, visit and follow @OpptyatWork.