Apprenticeship program rule respects construction trades’ turf

Sources: U.S. Department of Labor; North America’s Building Trades Unions, Washington, D.C.; CP staff

A Labor Department rule effective May 10 establishes a system to advance development of Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAP) and guidelines for third-party stakeholders to become Standards Recognition Entities (SRE). Candidates for latter include associations, companies, educational institutions, state or local governments, non-profits, unions, joint labor-management organizations, plus professional or industry certification and accreditation bodies. 

Labor Department-recognized SRE will work with employers to craft and monitor IRAP that provide apprentices with industry credentials. Individuals will be able to obtain workplace-relevant training and progressively advancing skills that result in an industry-recognized credential—all while getting paid for their work. IRAP will serve as a complement to a Registered Apprenticeship program that has been in place for over 80 years. The industry-led, market-driven SRE approach the Labor Department outlines in the final rule will give employers and other stakeholders flexibility necessary to expand the apprenticeship model into other sectors and  address the diverse workforce needs of different industries or occupations. 

A June 2017 Executive Order from President Donald Trump spawned a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion. It guided writing of the rule, which prohibits SRE from recognizing IRAP in the apprenticeship program-rich construction sector. In a statement on his coalition’s role in shaping the final rule as a task force participant, North America’s Building Trade Unions President Sean McGarvey noted, “As we engaged in deliberations, we had two goals in mind—to impart our wisdom, experience and subject matter expertise from the Registered system, and to ensure that the integrity of the Registered Apprenticeship system in our industry not be watered down. 

“Building trades unions, working together with contractors, spend more than $1 billion per year funding a nationwide network of nearly 1,600 teaching centers. The industry understands the benefits of a skilled workforce and is willing to pay to teach its workers. Given the widespread and effective nature of our privately financed and jointly managed registered programs for the construction industry, the final rule recognizes our rightful place as the standard bearer in the workforce development space.”


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