Union-endorsed apprenticeship program proposal rattles AGC, ABC

Sources: Associated General Contractors of America, Associated Builders & Contractors, Washington, D.C.; CP staff

proposal paving the way for associations to play stepped up roles in industry-recognized apprenticeship program (IRAP) development and oversight is drawing criticism from the two leading contractor groups due to its exclusion of construction. 

“At a time when the vast majority of construction firms report having a hard time finding qualified workers, it is deeply troubling that the Trump administration has opted to not include the sector in its new apprenticeship proposal,” said AGC CEO Steve Sandherr. “Instead of opening new routes for many thousands of Americans to embark on high-paying construction careers, the administration has instead opted to exclude one of the largest single sectors of the economy from what is supposed to be their signature workforce initiative.

“While there are multiple paths into the industry, the fact is that it remains too difficult for many firms and their partners to establish apprenticeship programs for construction workers. Barriers for apprenticeship programs often include the excessive costs incurred during the rigid and inflexible registration process. Had construction been included in this initiative, many more Americans would have had the option to master crafts via the proven apprenticeship model.”

“Given the massive skills gap in the United States, the administration missed an opportunity to embrace an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to workforce development. Established industry-recognized apprenticeship programs have been utilized by the merit shop construction industry for decades,” added ABC CEO Mike Bellaman. “ABC has been a leader in craft training since founding the apprenticeship curriculum developer NCCER nearly 30 years ago, and ABC’s chapter network has established more than 800 education programs across the United States.”

Countering the AGC and ABC positions was North America’s Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey, who noted in a statement on the IRAP rulemaking: “[We commend] the administration for recognizing in the proposed rule that these new programs have no place in the construction industry. Construction and construction maintenance are, by their very nature, among the most dangerous industries. Workers perform difficult physical labor, and are often exposed to extreme temperatures, heavy machinery, toxic substances and hazards related to oncoming traffic on road and bridge projects. To guard against these inherent dangers and promote first-rate work, workers must receive the highest quality education and training. The building trades’ Registered Apprenticeship Programs provide just that.”

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