The Biden administration proposed rescinding a Trump-era initiative that sought to deregulate government-funded apprenticeship programs by shifting oversight to industry groups.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed rule, published Friday, would cancel what the prior administration called industry-recognized apprenticeship programs, or IRAPs, and restore the agency’s traditional emphasis on registered apprenticeships—a model that has been in place for eight decades and applies more rigorous standards.
The department’s proposal adheres to President
The Trump administration had envisioned IRAPs as an alternative system that would expand government-backed apprenticeships into under-represented fields, such as health care and information technology. It allowed private companies to create their own programs with minimal government interference; the process of approving program standards was outsourced to private third parties.
If the department finalizes the rule and eliminates IRAPs, it would allow its Employment and Training Administration to focus on bolstering the registered apprenticeship system of earn-as-you-learn job-training programs.
Registered apprenticeships require tougher standards for program operators and are favored by organized labor. DOL and state agencies are responsible for approving program applicants and ensuring they meet nationally recognized performance levels.
Expanding apprenticeship opportunities in the construction trades—traditionally a key pipeline for them to add to their ranks—would help ensure there are enough qualified Americans to repair the nation’s highways, transit systems, and airports under the $550 billion infrastructure deal Congress recently approved.
When the Biden White House announced plans in February to change course on IRAPs, it called for strengthening registered apprenticeships as a means of preparing Americans for employment in the pandemic economic recovery, while also ensuring more opportunities are given to women and people of color.
The proposal will now undergo a 60-day public comment period.
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