The U.S. Department of Labor announced several actions designed to accelerate apprenticeship expansion as it considers halting the duplicative apprenticeship system that may reduce quality, strip protections for apprentices and cause confusion for industry. The steps follow a Biden administration announcement Wednesday.
The department will suspend its acceptance and review of new or pending applications for Standards Recognition Entities in the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program. In addition, the department announced its intention to relaunch the federal Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship. These actions will follow an executive order that Biden signed on Feb. 17 that revokes executive order 13801 and directs federal agencies to consider taking steps promptly to rescind any orders, rules, regulations, guidelines or policies implementing that order.
“Now, more than ever, the American workforce needs to be adapted as long-standing industries transform and create demand for skills in cutting-edge fields like cybersecurity, green energy, software development and data science,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Employment and Training Administration Suzi LeVine. “Apprenticeship is an ‘earn-as-you-learn’ method for equipping workers with the skills employers seek. With continued growth and innovation, Registered Apprenticeships provide pathways to strengthen our workforce and our economy at this critical time in our nation’s history.”
The Biden administration is concerned that the IRAP program creates a redundant apprenticeship program, with duplicate and often inferior systems that compete with the highly successful and longstanding Registered Apprenticeship Program. Any proposed changes to the regulation will include a public notice and comment rulemaking. In the past decade alone, the Registered Apprenticeship Program has jump-started the careers of more than 1.9 million U.S. workers in over a thousand occupations ranging from traditional careers like Electrician, Carpenter and Plumber, and newer occupations such as Software Developer, Wind Turbine Technician, Cybersecurity Analyst, Hotel Manager, Pharmacy Tech and 5G Wireless Technicians.
The suspension of receipt or review of Standards Recognition Entities’ applications announced has no impact on the 27 SREs currently approved, and all IRAPs recognized by an SRE will continue to perform their IRAP functions. Previously approved SREs may also continue to recognize additional IRAPs.
The department’s decision to relaunch the Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship follows its recognition of the clear need to engage with leaders and practitioners from industry, labor, education, workforce and community organizations to expand and diversify the proven Registered Apprenticeship model, and to streamline and modernize it. The committee’s charge will include developing recommendations on how the Registered Apprenticeship Program can better meet the current and future needs of the U.S. workforce. The department will also engage with a broad range of stakeholders to ensure equity and access for underrepresented populations and communities as well as expanded industries with in-demand jobs.
The department’s Employment and Training Administration administers federal job training and dislocated worker programs, federal grants to states for public employment service programs and unemployment insurance benefits.