Trump’s Apprenticeship Proposal Faces Scrutiny

A new proposal excludes the construction industry from planned apprenticeship program expansion, despite an ongoing shortage of skilled labor in the industry.

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The Department of Labor recently unveiled a proposal that seeks to expand apprenticeship programs in industries across the U.S. but excludes the construction industry from that expansion.

Stephen E. Sanherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, issued a statement critical of the proposal, saying that it ignores the construction industry without providing adequate reasoning for that exclusion.

“It is troubling that the administration says that the construction industry would not “initially” be eligible for consideration without providing any compelling rationale as to why the industry has been excluded,” said Sanherr.

Sanherr also shared concern that there are no clear plans for including construction training programs in this revamped apprenticeship program in the future.

According to the DOL, 166,629 (or just under 30%) of the active apprentices in 2018 were in the construction industry. Despite this, there is still a major shortage of skilled labor in the industry.

The DOL’s proposal aims to create more industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs) in various sectors by giving specific entities such as trade associations, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions the ability to create and monitor relevant apprenticeship programs. Under the new system, these groups would become Standards Recognition Entities (SRE’s), in charge of setting the standards for the training, structure and curriculum of the IRAPs that fall under their umbrella. Currently, the DOL is in charge of setting and maintaining the standards of all IRAPs.

“The Department believes its industry-led, market-driven approach provides the flexibility necessary to scale the apprenticeship model where it is needed most and helps address America’s skills gap,” the DOL said in a summary of the proposal. 

The DOL is also awarding private-public apprenticeship partnerships $183.8 million in grants to support the training of more than 85,000 individuals in new or expanded apprenticeship programs.

The Trump administration’s efforts to scale up the apprenticeship model across the U.S. began on June 15th, 2017, when President Trump issued an executive order to reform the apprenticeship system. That executive order resulted in the creation of a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion made up of representatives of business, labor, educational institutions, trade associations, and public officials. The DOL’s proposal is based off of the recommendations presented in the Task Force’s final report.

A 60-day period has begun during which the DOL will be receiving and reviewing comments on the contents of the proposal. Comments can be submitted through the mail or through this Federal e-Rulemaking PortalFor more information on how to mail-in comments, click here. All comments must be submitted by August 26th, 2019.

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