- The Apprenticeship Forward Collaborative, a national network of organizations focused on expanding apprenticeship programs, questioned the Trump administration's proposal to overhaul the nation's apprenticeship approval process under the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), according to a press release emailed to HR Dive. In June, DOL announced a plan that if implemented would amend the National Apprenticeship Act to recognize select groups as standards recognition entities (SREs), which would establish criteria for structure, curricula and training for industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs).
- On Tuesday, the collaborative's members wrote this response as a public comment to the administration's IRAPs proposal: "The undersigned organizations affirm the importance of reforming federal regulations to increase employer participation in apprenticeship, especially in nontraditional apprenticeship occupations. However, we are concerned that the creation of a parallel system of Industry Programs may further fragment our national apprenticeship system and introduce programs of widely varying quality." The group said it had recently released quality standards for apprenticeship programs. The collaborative consists of members including the National Skills Coalition, Jobs for the Future, CLASP, New America, National Association of State Workforce Agencies, Advance CTE, National Fund for Workforce Solutions and National Association of Workforce Boards.
- The collaborative submitted seven recommendations to DOL on the role of SREs, which include ensuring apprentice programs are developed in response to business needs for apprentices; ensuring apprenticeship programs raise U.S. workers' livelihoods; and supporting partnerships between local businesses, workers, academic institutions, labor and labor management and community-based organizations.
The collaborative's statement shows that despite support from employers and business groups, there are still concerns among the business community about the Trump administration's decision to overhaul apprenticeship recognition. The proposed rule's public comment period closed Monday, so businesses will need to wait and see how the DOL incorporates feedback from stakeholders.
Apprenticeships as a concept are not new, but a report by the Institute for WorkPlace Skills & Innovation America (IWSI), showed the model is still valuable to employers today. Faced with a challenging skills shortage, many employers are investing time and resources into on-the-job training, including but not limited to apprenticeships, in order to develop a highly capable workforce.
Employment experts also cite apprenticeships as a means of expanding talent pools. Facing acute skills shortages, employers are rethinking the need for formal degrees as a prerequisite for entry-level positions, instead focusing on candidates' potential to perform a job. Apprenticeships can help employers in that sense by expanding talent pools to those who might lack the necessary training to perform a job right away.