The U.S. Labor Department (DOL) has released broad guidance to governors and state and local workforce agencies on establishing industry-recognized apprenticeships.
The department says in the guidance issued on Friday that DOL will assess the quality of apprenticeship certification practices but it won’t decide what those standards should be.
“This structure means that employers, unions, labor-management organizations and other stakeholders involved in each industry will have the freedom to design apprenticeship programs that best fit their needs, bringing innovation to apprenticeship,” according to the document.
Earlier this month, DOL announced $150 million in grants to support sector-based approaches to expand apprenticeships on a national scale in key industry sectors. The program aims to accelerate the expansion of apprenticeships to new industry sectors, and to increase apprenticeship opportunities for all Americans, according to DOL. It added that there are more than 6.6 million job openings in the U.S., many of which require advanced skills.
The DOL guidance defines an industry-recognized apprenticeship program as one developed or delivered by third parties, and may include trade and industry groups, companies, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, unions, joint labor-management organizations or consortia.
It also must be certified as a high-quality program by a DOL-approved third-party certifier. The department plans to offer leeway regarding who serves as certifiers. They may include industry associations, employer groups, labor-management and educational organizations, and broad consortia of these and other groups.
DOL soon will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking that will provide more details.
Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration want to open federal funding for apprenticeship programs, which is currently restricted only to federal registered apprenticeship programs. Republicans argue that registered programs are too restrictive and include too much administrative red tape, which has kept many companies from offering such formal work-based training. Democrats, however, contend that registered apprenticeships assure quality training programs.
In May, a blue-ribbon task force that examined the barriers and potential of apprenticeships in workforce development recommended a pilot program to test industry-recognized apprenticeships in fields that don’t have well-established registered apprenticeships.