On Feb. 17, in advance of meeting with a group of labor unions, President Biden rescinded the Trump Administration’s Executive Order 13801, which promoted industry-recognized apprenticeship programs. According to the White House fact sheet, “President Biden is also asking DOL to consider new rulemaking to reverse these programs and to immediately slow support for industry-recognized apprenticeship programs by pausing approval of new Standards Recognition Entities and ending new funding for existing Standards Recognition Entities.”
Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Labor issued the IRAP final rule , officially titled Apprenticeship Programs, Labor Standards for Registration, Amendment of Regulations, which established a process for creating high-quality, industry-recognized apprenticeship programs by organizations that apply to become DOL-recognized Standards Recognition Entities. DOL excluded the construction industry from the scope of the IRAP final rule. ABC actively participated in the rulemaking and, in response to the Trump administration final rule, issued the following statement on March 11, 2020:
“All U.S. workers should have the opportunity to participate in DOL’s new industry programs, particularly as federal registered apprenticeship programs supply only a small fraction of the construction industry’s workforce. ABC, our 69 chapters and 21,000-plus members will continue to utilize an all-of-the-above education approach to ensure our workforce meets the highest standards for safety and quality craftsmanship, which has been and will remain our top priority. ABC members invested $1.6 billion to educate their employees in 2018, up from $1.1 billion in 2013, according to the results of ABC’s 2019 Workforce Development Survey. The 45% increase in spending resulted in nearly twice as many course attendees—more than 980,000—receiving craft, leadership and safety education to advance their careers in commercial and industrial construction.”
During the IRAP rulemaking, ABC also argued that while registered apprenticeship programs are an important part of an all-of-the-above workforce development strategy needed to meet the construction industry’s demand for skilled labor, most upskilling in the construction industry occurs outside of government-registered apprenticeship programs. In fact, according to U.S. DOL data, in 2020, just 20,164 construction industry apprentices completed apprenticeship programs registered with the department.
In addition to discussing IRAPs in the White House fact sheet, President Biden expressed his support for the House-passed and ABC-opposed National Apprenticeship Act of 2021. ABC argued the bill 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. ABC sent out an action alert and key voted against the apprenticeship bill, which passed by a vote of 247-173 on Feb. 5 with 28 Republicans voting to support.
ABC supported an amendment to the bill introduced and made in order by Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) that would eliminate a requirement in the bill for entities to partner with labor or joint labor organizations to be eligible for grant funding under a new apprenticeship grant program. The amendment unfortunately failed by a vote of 186-236, with 2 Democrats voting for and 19 Republicans voting against.
ABC will engage with the Senate on the National Apprenticeship Act and 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.