Apprenticeship programs behind the times, says advocacy group

WASHINGTON — At current rates of participation and completion, federal and state government-registered apprenticeship programs fail to meet the construction industry’s short- and long-term skilled workforce needs, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) analysis of recently released U.S. Department of Labor data.

“It is no secret that America’s government-registered apprenticeship system isn’t keeping up with construction industry demand for skilled craft professionals, despite dedicated efforts by many stakeholders to create new programs, grow capacity and attract new apprentices,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs. “Unfortunately, a controversial Biden administration proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Labor overhauling regulations for all government-registered apprenticeship program participants, providers and state regulators is likely to exacerbate the industry’s skilled labor shortage.”

On Jan. 31, ABC projected the construction industry workforce shortage of craft and non-craft labor to top half a million in 2024. 

“The Biden administration’s proposal will discourage employer participation in the GRAP system by needlessly adding more uncertainty and costs in the form of new recordkeeping and reporting requirements, while also eliminating flexible competency-based approaches to workforce development that attract apprentices and employers into the system,” said Brubeck. “As currently written, the lengthy Biden proposal threatens to undermine significant investments recently made by taxpayers in infrastructure, clean energy and manufacturing projects procured by government and private developers.”

ABC plans to submit comments on the Biden DOL’s proposal by its March 18 deadline, and is soliciting feedback from ABC members and industry leaders to recommend policy solutions that would increase apprentice, employer and provider participation and capacity in the GRAP system.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the availability of nearly $200 million in grants to continue to support public-private partnerships that expand, diversify and strengthen Registered Apprenticeship. The funding opportunity includes $95 million of competitive grants through the second round of the Apprenticeship Building America Grant Program and $100 million in the second round of State Apprenticeship Expansion Formula Grants. The announcement is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s fourth Investing in America tour, during which Administration officials are traveling across the country and making new announcements highlighting the impact of President Biden’s agenda on communities, families, and workers nationwide. 

“The second round of Apprenticeship Building America funding announced today continues the Department of Labor’s commitment to providing all of America’s workers with access to training and career preparation that leads to good jobs with family-sustaining wages,” said Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su in a press release. “These grants serve as another avenue toward strengthening the nation’s workforce development infrastructure to connect people from all communities to the good jobs being created by President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.”

The department’s Employment and Training Administration will use these funds to prioritize projects that support the Investing in America agenda—including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act—by expanding access to Registered Apprenticeships in high-demand sectors and occupations.



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Dakota Smith | Editorial Intern

Dakota Smith is an undergraduate student at New Jersey City University studying English and Creative Writing. He is a writer at heart, and a cook by trade. His career goal is to become an author. At Woodworking Network, Dakota is an editorial intern, ready to dive into the world of woods and words.