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Labor report calls for apprenticeship expansion and workforce program cuts
Kirill Abbakumov   on Friday, May 11, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

On May 10th, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion submitted a report with their recommendations on expanding apprenticeship in the U.S. to the President. The report includes some important recommendations focused on industry-driven strategies, but also continues a disturbing pattern of calls for cuts to vital workforce programs. This is worrying for economic developers, who urge the administration to strengthen the workforce and education systems instead of cutting investments to these systems.

The task force report is based on the work for four subcommittees over the past year and was called for by the President in his June 2017 Executive Order on Expanding Apprenticeship in America. Each subcommittee made a series of recommendations to the President in the May 10th report.

In brief:

  • The Subcommittee on Education and Credentialing focused on the components of an industry recognized apprenticeship program (IRAP), and recommended to avoid wage progression for apprentices that correspond with their growing skill level. It also called for DOL and Education to be partners with industry to increase access to virtual learning.
  • The Subcommittee on Attracting Business to Apprenticeship recommended a robust analysis of the skill shortages and the role apprenticeship can play in meeting business skill demands. It also recommended the Departments of Labor, Education and Commerce develop a centralized online community with apprenticeship resources.
  • The Subcommittee on Expanding Access, Equity and Career Awareness recommended launching an awareness campaign, supporting pre-apprenticeship, and promoting the use of technology in apprenticeship programs. It also recommended that DOL implement clear guidelines “that reinforce the principles of equity.”
  • The Subcommittee on Administrative and Regulatory Strategies to Expand Apprenticeship recommended IRAP implementation begin with a pilot program focused on an industry without a well-established registered apprenticeship system. It also suggested the system should focus on competency, not seat time requirements.

Earlier this year, Congress appropriated $145 million to apprenticeship expansion, specifically focused on registered apprenticeship. DOL is tasked with submitting a report to Congress by September 30th 2018 describing their allocation of these funds. Over the past two years, DOL has allocated more than $100 million to 36 states to expand innovating apprenticeship strategies. Appropriated funds have also been used to support industry and equity intermediary contracts to national organizations working with apprenticeship sponsors and businesses to expand apprenticeship. DOL has used remaining funds appropriated in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 for contracts to build out online resources on apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship, consistent with the task force recommendations.