Labor Department turns back clock on apprenticeship programs

The U.S. Department of Labor is reviewing nominations for members to serve on the newly reinstated National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships. Candidates will include a diverse set of stakeholders—from those representing unions, employers or apprentices to community colleges and other institutions—to build a Registered Apprenticeship Program. Members will focus on expanding apprenticeships into fast-growing industries and sectors to create more high-quality training and employment opportunities. 

“The Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship will bring experts together to develop recommendations for an inclusive apprenticeship program that promotes equity for all participants,” says Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. “Apprenticeships offer good-paying jobs and a path to the middle class. The committee will help us ensure that people seeking apprenticeships reflect the broad diversity that has always made America strong.”

Committee members will be appointed to one- and two-year terms and advise the Secretary on ways to expand and modernize the national apprenticeship system to provide career pathways that advance the dignity of work. “Expanding and diversifying apprenticeship is vital to equipping today’s workers with the skills needed now, for enabling opportunities into the future and providing employers with a workforce to support their growth,” observes Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Suzi LeVine. “To enable that expansion, the newly reconstituted National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships will provide important insights and guidance we need to succeed. To help with that, the re-established committee will include individuals with lived experiences and, for the first time, youth apprentices.”

The committee stems from White House order favoring legacy, Labor Department-sanctioned registered apprenticeship programs, prevalent in construction. “Due in large part to the hard work of North America’s Building Trades Unions and other unions, registered apprenticeships have been a reliable pathway to the middle class for decades—including for workers who don’t go to college—by training workers for good jobs and allowing them to earn while they learn,” a White House briefing notes. A Mathematica study shows workers can earn $240,000 more over the course of their lifetime, $300,000 when including benefits, by participating in such programs. 

“Registered apprenticeships are especially important as we recover from the pandemic, allowing workers who have lost their jobs or young people who are entering a weak job market to train for the jobs of the future while earning a decent income.”

The National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships formation walks back Labor Department measures spawning industry recognized apprenticeship programs and attendant standards recognition entities, both abiding actions in a President Donald Trump Executive Order. “Industry recognized apprenticeship programs threaten to undermine registered apprenticeship programs [as they] have fewer quality standards,” the White House contends. “Industry recognized apprenticeship programs fail to require the wage progression that reflects increasing apprentice skills and they lack the standardized rigor that ensures employers know they are hiring a worker with high-quality training.”

To cap off the registered apprenticeship rescue, the White House is asking the Labor Department “to immediately slow support for industry recognized apprenticeship programs by pausing approval of new Standards Recognition Entities and ending new funding for existing Standards Recognition Entities.”