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On March 18, ABC submitted 45 pages of comments on the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed rule making significant and controversial revisions to the National Apprenticeship System, which will affect ABC members, chapters, apprentices and other industry stakeholders participating in government-registered apprenticeship programs, or GRAPs.

ABC also issued a statement condemning the rule that was picked up in numerous media outlets:

“ABC recognizes and fully supports government-registered apprenticeship programs as a key component of the construction industry’s all-of-the-above solution to upskilling the over half a million new workers needed in 2024 alone, and would welcome efforts to modernize and expand this system,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs. “Unfortunately, as our comments outline, this illegal, unnecessarily costly and burdensome Biden administration proposal will instead restrict GRAP system growth and exacerbate the industry’s labor shortage.”

ABC’s comments criticized and urged the withdrawal of several concerning provisions in the proposed rule, including:

  • Reduction of flexibility by replacing competency-based GRAPs with time-based GRAPs
  • Elimination of state government’s ability to approve apprenticeship programs for new occupations
  • Numerous costly new recordkeeping and administrative requirements

“Overall, this proposal will cost the regulated community more than $1.3 billion over the next 10 years, according to the DOL’s own flawed and stunningly low-ball regulatory cost analysis,” said Brubeck.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy also submitted comments highlighting the DOL’s inadequate regulatory cost estimates and negative effect on small businesses:

“[The Office of] Advocacy is concerned that the DOL underestimates the economic impact of this rule on small businesses in its IRFA. Small sponsors and employers will have a difficult time complying with the new costs and administrative burdens in this new proposal, such as operational changes, recordkeeping requirements, and legal disclosures. This rule will also discourage new small businesses from participating in this program, creating a barrier to entry to lucrative government funding opportunities. “

ABC members also submitted at least 1,450 unique comments opposing the rule via ABC’s grassroots campaign utilizing ABC’s Action app and Action Center. These account for 65% of comments submitted to the DOL. ABC member comments illuminated ways the GRAP system has been perverted by special interest groups and bad actors within state governments to serve as a tool to restrict competition for taxpayer-funded contracts and grants.

Additionally, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Rep. Virgina Foxx, R-N.C., along with U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives colleagues, sent letters to the DOL urging the Biden administration to withdraw its controversial proposed changes to the National Apprenticeship System.

“The one-size-fits-all Washington mandate does not take into consideration the various dynamics of apprenticeship programs across localities and industries,” Sen. Barrasso wrote. “The burdensome requirement will also be particularly difficult for small businesses to fulfill as they may lack the flexibility and resources necessary.”

Rep. Foxx noted that, “If the proposed rule is finalized, states, local workforce leaders, and employers will simply disengage and forgo the federal government’s tarnished stamp of approval as they set out to build their own apprenticeship systems that are responsive to the ever-changing demands of the economy.” Several state workforce development agencies, including the America First Policy Institute, submitted comments opposing the DOL’s proposal and its efforts to restrict state-led innovation and governance of their apprenticeship systems.

Likewise, a group of 24 state attorneys general submitted a comment letter asserting that the NPRM’s efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in GRAP regulations exceeds the DOL’s authority and promotes racial discrimination.

As highlighted in ABC’s comments, in February, ABC conducted a survey of ABC members and ABC chapters, which confirmed that the proposed rule would discourage GRAP participation. According to the survey:

  • 90% of ABC member contractor respondents said they would be less likely to start their own company-run GRAP as a result of the DOL’s proposed changes
  • 94% of respondents believe the proposed rule will increase the cost of participating in or starting a GRAP
  • 96% of respondents said new recordkeeping and reporting requirements will make them less likely to participate in or start their own GRAP
  • 95% of all respondents said apprentice participation and completion in GRAPs is less likely as a result of the DOL’s proposal
  • 98% of all respondents said small businesses are less likely to participate or continue participating in GRAPs as a result of the DOL’s proposed changes

The NPRM also proposes significant changes to the career and technical education ecosystem utilized by ABC members and ABC chapters, as discussed in ABC’s comments. Additional comments filed by the Association for Career and Technical Education address many of these concerns in detail.

In addition, ABC signed a comment letter submitted by the Jobs and Careers Coalition and 13 other trade associations raising numerous concerns with the NPRM.  

Separately from the DOL proposed rule, President Joe Biden’s March 6 Executive Order 14119, Scaling and Expanding the Use of Registered Apprenticeships in Industries and the Federal Government and Promoting Labor-Management Forums, seeks to expand the use of GRAPs by the federal government.

The order directs federal agencies to identify where they can implement new requirements or incentives for federal contractors and recipients of federal financial assistance to employ workers who are active participants or graduates of a GRAP.

While specific details on how these new requirements will be implemented are not yet available until a separate rulemaking is completed, ABC is concerned that any new mandates or incentives on federal contracts and grants will reduce competition from contractors that choose not to participate in the GRAP system or lack access to these programs.

The Biden EO also undermines the NPRM’s inadequate regulatory cost analysis on small businesses and other stakeholders, according to ABC’s comments.

ABC champions government-registered apprenticeships as part of a diverse, all-of-the-above solution to workforce development. ABC’s chapters are educating craft, safety and management professionals using innovative and flexible learning models like just-in-time task training, competency-based progression and work-based learning, in addition to more than 450 federal and state GRAPs in more than 20 different occupations across America, in order to develop a safe, skilled and productive workforce. 

ABC members invested an estimated $1.5 billion in construction industry workforce development to upskill 1.3 million course attendees in 2022, including hundreds of GRAPs administered independently by ABC member companies.

More information on the proposed rule is available at