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Department of Labor Apprenticeship Program Omits Construction Industry

Department of Labor Apprenticeship Program Omits Construction Industry

(AGC, NAHB, NECA) — The U.S. Department of Labor yesterday passed a “final rule” to establish a process to develop industry-recognized apprenticeship programs. The department specifically exempted the construction sector from taking part in the program.

Several industry organizations are reacting differently to the ruling. The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) consider the omission a missed opportunity to close the skills gap that has been haunting the industry with severe labor shortages. Conversely, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) applauds the final rule.

Under the ruling, which goes into effect May 1, 2020, trade associations, educational institutions, state and local government entities or a consortium or partnership of these entities may become a Standards Recognition Entity (SRE) that sets standards for training, structure, and curricula for recognized apprenticeship programs in relevant industries or occupational areas.

The new rule, which will govern the creation of Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs), will ensure the construction industry may not participate in IRAPs.

NAHB’s Chairman, Dean Mon, stated:

“With the home building industry suffering a chronic labor shortage that is resulting in higher construction costs, increased home prices and lower economic growth, it is disappointing that the Labor Department’s final apprenticeship rule failed to include the construction sector. This is a missed opportunity at a time when there are 239,000 unfilled construction jobs and an acute shortage of skilled residential construction workers.”

The chief executive officer of the AGC, Stephen E. Sandherr, issued the following statement:

“It remains troubling that the administration has wasted so much time, energy and political capital in creating a new apprenticeship program that is both deeply flawed and fails to address construction workforce shortages. Instead of deciding to exclude construction, the administration should have found ways to make it easier to establish the kind of rigorous, high-quality, construction apprenticeship programs that exist in some, but far from every, part of the country.

“If the administration should ever seek to expand apprenticeship opportunities for construction, we urge it to ensure that all apprenticeships are set up on a level playing field. In particular, all apprenticeship programs should qualify for the same federal funding or be excluded from the same federal funding. The administration also needs to ensure that all apprenticeship programs are required to have equal rigor.

Conversely, NECA applauded the final rule for recognizing the construction industry’s longstanding expertise in the creation and execution of apprenticeships. CEO David Long said:

“Given the high concentration of time-tested registered apprenticeship programs in the construction industry, there is no need to create a parallel program that would detract from our nearly 80 years of experience as the industry’s gold standard. We are pleased that the Trump administration recognized the success of our established model. Thanks to our efforts to expand and improve our programs, millions of hardworking Americans have built wonderful careers empowering lives and communities across America.”

 

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