President Biden supports the House-passed and ABC-opposed National Apprenticeship Act of 2021 (H.R. 447), which would not achieve its goal of expanding apprenticeship opportunities, as it would further restrict small businesses’ ability to access federally registered apprenticeship programs, limit job opportunities in the construction industry and create additional obstacles for the construction industry to meet future workforce demand and needs.
Relying solely on government-registered apprenticeships is insufficient to meet increasing workforce needs. U.S. Department of Labor data and industry estimates indicate no more than 45,000 apprentices completed government-registered construction apprenticeship programs in 2021. At this rate, it would take more than 14 years to supply the estimated 650,000 construction workers the industry needs to hire in 2022 alone. This data demonstrates the necessity of a flexible approach to workforce development.
In addition, the House included harmful apprenticeship language in their ABC-opposed budget reconciliation package, formally titled the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376), and the ABC-opposed America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521), which includes language from the National Apprenticeship Act. Notably, the harmful language was not ultimately included in the Inflation Reduction Act or the United States Innovation and Competition Act.
H.R. 7309, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2022, passed the House on May 17, 2022, by a vote of 220-196. This legislation was drafted without bipartisan input and contains several problematic provisions for ABC and our members, including:
- Mandated increases in labor union representatives into state and local workforce boards at the expense of employer input;
- A more complex funding process for on-the-job upskilling and increased federal control over workforce standards;
- Overemphasis on the rigid registered apprenticeship program;
- Ill-advised changes to the list of approved providers for skills education; and
- Potential for increased fraud and abuse of WIOA funds.
Unfortunately, the provisions in these bills could prove detrimental for the construction workforce and potentially limit apprenticeship opportunities for hardworking Americans.
ABC will continue to advocate for an all-of-the-above workforce development strategy, including industry-driven and government-registered apprenticeship programs, so workers and employers have freedom to choose the best way to provide value and help rebuild America. ABC also believes that expanding access to all postsecondary credentials as defined by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is critical to filling the critical jobs gap facing construction and a host of other industries throughout the country.
ABC supports the Training America’s Workforce Act, which would allow for the federal recognition of industry and market-driven apprenticeship programs in the United States through third-party entities, approved by the DOL, to recognize and perform oversight of apprenticeship programs developed by the private sector. The legislation mirrors much of the efforts of the Trump administration’s Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program rule. While the Trump rule explicitly excluded construction, ABC worked to ensure that the construction industry and associations like ABC, its chapters and its members are able to participate under this new proposal.