The 411 on the New Apprenticeship Rule Changes

The 411 on the New Apprenticeship Rule Changes

Several changes have been happening lately at the federal level regarding registered apprenticeship programs. New rules that were put in place a few years ago are now being suspended, and other policies are expanding in new ways. This presents apprenticeship program coordinators with quite a bit to unpack, so our team dove into the changes to pinpoint the important details that leaders need to know.


Out with the IRAPs

Back in 2017, the Trump administration created the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP) with the signing of Executive Order 13801. That’s been revoked as of recently, which may please many union groups.

The IRAP program enabled any employer to design their own federally assisted training program as long as they were approved by a Standards Recognition Entity (SRE). An SRE was really just any third-party industry entity that received approval from the Department of Labor (DOL) to authorize IRAPS. For example, it could’ve been a company, a trade group, or many other types of organizations.

At the time, the new IRAP’s raised the eyebrows of many organized labor officials who felt they would undermine existing registered apprenticeship oversight. Apparently, the Biden administration agreed.

In announcing the revocation, the administration said, “IRAPs have fewer quality standards than registered apprenticeship programs – for example, they fail to require the wage progression that reflects increasing apprentice skills and they lack the standardized training rigor that ensures employers know they are hiring a worker with high-quality training.”

In addition to rescinding Executive Order 13801, the Department of Labor was asked to pause approval of new SREs and end new funding for existing ones. There are 27 SREs that were approved under the former program, and these will continue to perform their functions. They are also allowed to continue recognizing additional IRAPs.

The logic here, according to administrators, is that IRAPs created a redundant apprenticeship program that was in many ways “inferior” to the longstanding Registered Apprenticeship Program.


Getting the Band Back Together

Changes have been happening in a lot of workplaces as industries have been evolving, so part of the recent apprenticeship rule changes are intended to bring more experts to the table and get their input about training. Thus, the Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship (ACA) was relaunched earlier this year.

The ACA provides a way for the DOL to engage with leaders from industries, unions, labor groups, education, and community organizations. Their goal will be to streamline and modernize the Registered Apprenticeship model by developing recommendations for how it can best fit the needs of the U.S. workforce.

One of the Biden administration’s key goals is to build apprenticeship programs that work for all types of communities.

Administration officials said, “The Advisory Committee will have the opportunity to focus on expanding apprenticeships into new employment industries and sectors like clean energy, technology, and healthcare to create more high-quality training and employment opportunities. The Advisory Committee must also focus on making sure that Black and brown Americans, immigrants, and women can access the training and jobs of the future.”


Expanding Apprenticeships

One final item to definitely keep an eye on is the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, which has bipartisan and White House support. The act was introduced early this year and has not yet become law, but it has been gaining momentum.

The act seeks to create and expand registered apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, and pre-apprenticeship programs, according to DOL officials. New efforts will be made to attract a diverse workforce by supporting intermediaries that can help recruit women and people of color. Additionally, new connections will be formed between community colleges and apprenticeship programs.

The House Education and Labor Committee estimates these efforts will create nearly 1 million new apprenticeship opportunities and generate billions of dollars in benefits for taxpayers.


Good Things Coming

Although the new rule changes give a bit of a whiplash feeling for those who have followed labor laws through several political administrations, their effect is likely to be positive for many employers. A better-trained and more diverse workforce will be great for business. As progress continues from these new rule changes, hopefully we’ll be seeing increased participation rates and new groups of people bringing their effort and ideas into the workforce.