The U.S. Department of Labor announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would establish a process for the department to advance development of high-quality, industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs).
Under the proposed rule, entities such as trade, industry, and employer groups or associations, educational institutions, state and local government entities, non-profit organizations, unions, or a consortium or partnership of these entities could become a Standards Recognition Entity (SRE) that sets standards for training, structure, and curricula for IRAPs in relevant industries or occupational areas. The SREs would be recognized through the U.S. Department of Labor to ensure that its requirements are met, resulting in only high-quality IRAPs. The NPRM reflects key recommendations contained in the final report of the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, created by Executive Order in June 2017. It noted that the establishment of industry-recognized apprenticeships could provide high-quality apprenticeship programs and opportunities in a market-driven system.
"The apprenticeship model of earning while learning has worked well in many American industries, and today we open opportunities for apprenticeships to flourish in new sectors of our economy. With 7.4 million open jobs and job creators searching for skilled job seekers, apprenticeship expansion will continue to close the skills gap and strengthen the greatest workforce in the world – the American workforce." - Alexander Acosta, U.S. Secretary of Labor
The Department would ensure that SREs have the capacity and quality assurance processes and procedures needed to monitor IRAPs and recognize that IRAPs are high quality. The criteria for high-quality IRAPs include paid work, work-based learning, mentorship, education and instruction, industry-recognized credentials, safety and supervision, and adhering to equal employment opportunity obligations. IRAPs represent a new pathway for the expansion of apprenticeships, and the proposal accordingly does not change requirements for Registered Apprenticeship Programs.
A 60-day public comment period commences with the publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register. Interested persons can submit comments on the content of the proposed rule by following the transmittal directions contained in the NPRM.
On June 25, the Department will also issue a revised Training and Employment Notice (TEN) that will subsequently be accompanied by an application for entities seeking to recognize IRAPs. A revised TEN will also be published that provides additional information on the policies and procedures that entities are expected to have in place to establish their standards-setting and recognition processes, and to evaluate and recognize apprenticeship programs as high quality. This revised TEN will subsequently be accompanied by the Department's revised application form, along with explanations on how to use that form.
The Department of Labor further announced awards totaling $183.8 million in Scaling Apprenticeship Through Sector-Based Strategies grants to private-public apprenticeship partnerships in information technology, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare. The grants, which are funded through H-1B visa fees, are intended to support the development and expansion of apprenticeships for educational institutions partnering with companies that provide a funding match component.
The grants will support the training of more than 85,000 apprentices in new or expanded apprenticeship programs and increase apprenticeship opportunities for all Americans. Recipients include colleges, universities, and state systems of higher education, in partnership with national industry associations, employers representing an industry sector, and other partners. Industry partners will provide partial matching funds to the institutions to develop in-demand skills as part of these programs.
Click here to view a chart highlighting the 23 academic institutions and consortia receiving grants with their private-sector partners.
The Department is also announcing a new solicitation to award up to $100 million in grant funds authorized by Section 414(c) of the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) for the Apprenticeships: Closing the Skills Gap grant program. Up to 30 apprenticeship grants will be funded, with awards ranging from $500,000 to $6 million. Grants may be local/regional, statewide, or national in scale, and funding will depend on the proposed geographic scope of the apprenticeship project. Grant funds will be awarded to apprenticeship partnerships of public- and private-sector entities, which together will develop and implement new apprenticeship models or expand existing apprenticeship programs.
The full solicitation will be published on grants.gov.