By Mitch Coppes, Government Relations Senior Specialist, Goodwill Industries International
The House Education and Labor Committee recently put forward a draft proposal to revamp the National Apprenticeship Act—a 1937 law that established the national Registered Apprenticeship system. The draft proposal includes new streamlined quality standards for registering apprenticeship programs and pre-apprenticeships. The committee is also recommending federal resources be made available to promote the development of registered apprenticeships in non-traditional occupations, encourage apprenticeship opportunities for individuals with barriers to employment, and better align apprenticeships with educational programs.
The committee unveiled the draft legislation during a hearing on Wednesday, March 4. Committee members and expert witnesses spoke about the importance of wraparound supportive services, including transportation and childcare assistance, in addressing barriers to access for low-income apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship program participants. In addition, the committee heard about promising pre-apprenticeship models that are preparing incarcerated individuals to enroll in registered apprenticeships upon their release.
Registration of an apprenticeship program can provide access to a range of federal education and workforce training funding unavailable to programs that are not registered. In recent years, Congress has provided dedicated funding to expand registered apprenticeships through grants that support apprenticeship-related initiatives in states and communities. The Administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget included $200 million for the program, which would be an increase of $25 million over the current funding level.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is working to finalize regulations that would establish a new system for industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs). The IRAP proposal would create an industry-led process for approving and recognizing apprenticeship programs that is separate from the existing registered apprenticeship system.
Apprenticeships provide high-quality career pathways through which employers can develop and prepare their future workforce, and individuals can obtain paid work experience, classroom instruction and a portable credential. Research shows that 94% of apprentices retain employment after completing an apprenticeship program, with an average starting wage of $70,000. However, millions of jobs are unfilled due to the growing skills gap in the workforce. Workers need to upgrade their skills and employers must become producers of the talent they need to thrive. Goodwill stands ready to assist in helping workers bridge this gap as we continue to advance policies that help Americans learn skills for jobs in growing industries.
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