ACTI pre-apprenticeship training with special guests Gwyna Bond and Jonathan Bibb

Jonathan Bibb

Rick Sizemore Twitter @Rickwwrc  or email,

Jonathan Bibb’s Twitter @jlbibb  Contact Jonathan to learn more about how National Consortium Centers are documenting measurable skills gains and workforce credentials.

General Overview of Pre-Apprenticeship PDF Download


Speaker 1: VR Workforce Studio: Inspiration, education, and affirmation at work. Welcome to another episode, as we open up the VR Workforce Studio to champion the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation from individuals with disabilities.

Speaker 2: Listen to our amazing stories about the disability employment journey.

Speaker 3: Hear us describe our pathway through the challenge.

Speaker 2: And hear the joy and share in our inspiration as we overcome disabilities and go to work.

Speaker 1: We’ll also meet the champions of business and industry who hire individuals with disabilities.

Speaker 3: I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that some of our best employees have disabilities.

Speaker 1: And hear from the VR professionals who have dedicated their lives and careers to helping individuals with disabilities go to work. Now, here’s the host of the VR Workforce Studio, Rick Sizemore, along with the executive director of the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation, Anne Hudlow.

Speaker 4: Three, two, one …

 Rick Sizemore: On today’s episode of the VR Workforce Studio, Jonathan Bibb joins us from the Arkansas Career and Training Institute at Hot Springs, Arkansas. We’re talking about pre-apprenticeship training. Welcome to the podcast, Jonathan.

Jonathan Bibb: Great to be here. Thanks for the opportunity, Rick. Good to speak with you again.

 Rick Sizemore: Apprenticeships are becoming such a desirable way of helping young people move into the workforce, and now it seems that we have the emergence of the apprenticeship option as a great possible avenue for individuals with disabilities. Tell us what’s going on at ACTI with pre-apprenticeship training.

Jonathan Bibb: Well, thanks for the opportunity to talk about that. We’ve been partnering with an entity called the Arkansas Apprenticeship Coalition. Since that time, we have found that this has been a really good avenue for our students to get some hands-on skills, but also get that direct feedback from business and industry partners that not only have jobs and career here in the state of Arkansas, but are also tied to national corporations across the United States.

They utilize registered apprenticeship, which is a portable certification, and it’s a great opportunity for our students to earn while they learn. So, we get them a very good foundation here at ACTI, and they continue on on that lifelong learning path through registered apprenticeship.

 Rick Sizemore: That is outstanding. I understand that Gwyna is there with you. We want to talk with Gwyna about her pre-apprenticeship training program and then follow up with you and get into some of the details of how the pre-apprenticeship training program actually works.

Jonathan Bibb: I’m very excited that Gwyna is here. In addition to being part of our pre-apprenticeship program, she is also the president of our Health Occupation Students of America chapter.

 Rick Sizemore: Outstanding.

Jonathan Bibb: This is our first time to really offer pre-apprenticeship in the health occupations, and this is a way to get emerging registered apprenticeships in the state tied into our training program.

Gwyna Bond: Hi, Rick.

 Rick Sizemore: Gwyna, welcome to the podcast. Tell us about your pre-apprenticeship training and also being the president of this local chapter that’s leading the way there at ACTI.

Gwyna Bond: Well, those come hand-in-hand, because I was shy, I will admit that; but, Miss Karen … Every day we went to class; we went on time … she had us to introduce ourselves and say what program we were in and what was a few things that we liked to do, and we had to go in front of the class. So, ever since we were doing that, it got easier to speak in front of crowds. That’s one skill that I learned and team building, time management, being even more organized. I mean, words can’t describe how thankful I am to be able to be a part of the pre-apprenticeship program, because it has helped me through my whole course.

 Rick Sizemore: So, you’re also studying health occupations at ACTI?

Gwyna Bond: Yes.

 Rick Sizemore: What do you hope to do, now that you’ve worked your way through that vocational training program and have this pre-apprenticeship experience? What’s next in your career pathway?

Gwyna Bond: Just going out there and paying my dues and become a working citizen.

 Rick Sizemore: Awesome. What are your career aspirations eventually?

Gwyna Bond: Well, I do want to further my education and, hopefully, one day within 10 to 15 years be a nurse practitioner.

 Rick Sizemore: Did you receive a workforce credential or a certificate through your training program at ACTI?

Gwyna Bond: Yes, I did.

 Rick Sizemore: Tell us about that.

Gwyna Bond: I got my certificate from the pre-apprenticeship and my course that I was taking here on February 16. Now I’m just ready to go out, work, and be a good citizen. Also, HOSA is tomorrow. Whatever skills I’m doing there will help me to my state boards on Monday. So, busy, busy weekend.

 Rick Sizemore: As I listen to you describe all of the skills and all the various activities you were engaged in in pre-apprenticeship, it’s very inspiring to hear the kinds of skills that employers are talking about needing, and so I’m certain you’re going to have a very bright future.

One final question: What do you think the job market is like in the community you want to live in. Are there a lot of job openings?

Gwyna Bond: There are, a much-needed CNA in the workforce now, because there’s all these hospitals: VA hospitals, clinics, family practice. We can even work in a private doctor’s office as well.

 Rick Sizemore: Well, that is just outstanding. We wish you the very best as you continue writing your courageous story of vocational rehabilitation. All the best.

Gwyna Bond: Thank you so much.

 Rick Sizemore: Jonathan, it sounds like the program there is really doing a phenomenal job at opening up career pathways and opportunities, particularly with this pre-apprenticeship training program. Tell us how it’s structured and how you’re moving it ahead within the center.

Jonathan Bibb: Back in 2016, we had this as kind of a standalone program for a week-long intensive training, and we received feedback from the students that they really wanted the opportunity to put a lot of these skills that they were learning into practice in their vocational training areas that are accredited by the Council on Occupational Education.

So, this year we made a change and we stretched the training over an entire month, beginning on January 22 and ending up on February 16. During that time, our students go through doing a career interest profile, completing and submitting employment applications, knowing about employer expectations and the employee responsibilities, as well as team-building, problem solving, and real-world scenarios.

I think one of the most important aspects of pre-apprenticeship training is having the registered apprenticeship program sponsors providing that training and evaluating our students throughout that month-long process. It culminates on the final day with our interviews of different employers that work with that registered apprenticeship program sponsor that have registered apprenticeship jobs that are available. So, our students were interviewing for jobs at the end.

 Rick Sizemore: What kind of feedback are you getting from employers about the readiness level of these pre-apprenticeship graduates from ACTI?

Jonathan Bibb: This program was developed by the National Apprenticeship Training Foundation in conjunction with the Arkansas Apprenticeship Coalition at the request of employers that wanted to see this pre-apprenticeship training. So, the employers that have done the interviews, we have found that they have been very receptive and very excited about the students that successfully complete this program.

In addition, what we’ve found is, a lot of our students have come close to that last day and say, “You know what? I really need some additional prep before I interview with an employer.” So, what we’ll do is, we have them go through mock interviews and provide them a pathway to work on their skills so they feel more prepared for the interviews with the employers.

At the end of the 16th, we had 48 students that were ready for the interviews, and around 25 of those were ready for employment. The others wanted a little bit more prep work. It’s a good give-and-take, both getting feedback from the employers, getting feedback from the students, and making sure that that pathway is mutually beneficial.

 Rick Sizemore: So, you’re getting a lot of numbers through the program, and the quality of the pre-apprenticeship graduates, the feedback is very positive about it.

Jonathan Bibb: They also obtained OSHA 10 certification and CPR certification.

 Rick Sizemore: That is fantastic. Are you looking at the relationship with the employers as a way to measure your business engagement under the Workforce Innovation Opportunities Act?

Jonathan Bibb: Absolutely. This is a way to really bring VR together with employers that work with registered apprenticeship. This is an incredible way of reaching employers. The other thing is some folks in vocational rehabilitation don’t realize that registered apprenticeship program sponsors are required to recruit people with disabilities. Under the regulations, 29 CFR 30, part 7, there is actually a requirement that they strive to reach 7% of their employment with people with disabilities. So, this is a way in which we engage and provide that recruitment effort for those registered apprenticeship employers.

 Rick Sizemore: Wow. That is exciting. Walk us through all of the different occupational areas where the pre-apprenticeship training is being offered.

Jonathan Bibb: Well, as you know, there’s really no limit to the occupations that are available under registered apprenticeship. I know that there are over 900 occupations that have been approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, and this ties in directly to every one of our training programs that we have. We have over 10 training areas, with 26 specialties. In each and every one there are registered apprenticeships in those areas, and we can tie into those employers that utilize registered apprenticeship. Whether it’s culinary arts or welding, there are registered apprenticeships that are available.

 Rick Sizemore: Jonathan, you’ll be presenting on this at the Jobs-Driven Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center Conference on Work-Based Learning. We’re excited about ACT and all the great things that are going on and wish you nothing but the very best in the future.

Jonathan Bibb: Looking forward to hearing from you as well, as being part of that panel and finding out about the great things that are going on at the Wilson Workforce Center in manufacturing and pre-apprenticeship.

 Rick Sizemore: Truly exciting time in our country for the alignment of vocational rehabilitation with all these apprenticeship opportunities. I think the future’s looking so bright. As they say in the old song, “We’re going to have to wear shades.”

Jonathan Bibb: I agree with you.

 Rick Sizemore: All right. Thank you, Jonathan.

Jonathan Bibb: Thank you. Appreciate your time.

 Rick Sizemore: Thanks for joining us for today’s special episode. Your support absolutely means the world to us. If you’d like to get in touch, my contact information is in the Show Notes at, where you can also find information about the co-host and the executive director for the VR Workforce Studio, Anne Hudlow. Shoot us an email or just leave us a message. Until next time, I’m Rick Sizemore with the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation.

Speaker 1: Support for the foundation’s production and distribution of the VR Workforce Studio comes from CVS Health, Dominion Energy, the Virginia Manufacturers Association, and the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund.