DOL’s proposed IRAP structure

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on Monday released its proposal for a new apprenticeship structure that would run in tandem with its registered apprenticeship program.

The industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs) would complement registered apprenticeships, DOL said. The department noted that it wants to avoid potentially “undercutting” the registered apprenticeship system and plans to recognize IRAPs in sectors that don’t have significant registered apprenticeship opportunities. For example, it would likely exclude (at least initially) the construction industry and the military from IRAPs.

The department also announced new grant awards totaling nearly $184 million to develop and expand apprenticeships for educational institutions (including community colleges) partnering with companies that provide matching funds. DOL added that it is making available another $100 million to further expand apprenticeships.

“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,” U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said in a press release. “With 7.4 million open jobs and job creators searching for skilled job seekers, apprenticeship expansion will continue to close the skills gap.”

The IRAPs structure

Flexible models such as IRAPs are needed to grow apprenticeships, especially into new fields that have not traditionally been involved with apprenticeships, DOL said. They also can help keep skills current in rapidly evolving industries and occupations.

The Trump administration has been touting apprenticeships as a key way to link employers seeking skilled workers with workers seeking training that leads to good-paying jobs.

Last year, a national Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion — on which Walter Bumphus, president of the American Association of Community Colleges, served — forwarded its recommendations on how best to expand the apprenticeship model. DOL’s new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) reflects key recommendations contained in the group’s final report, which noted that the establishment of IRAPs could provide high-quality apprenticeship programs and opportunities in a market-driven system.

The proposed rule focuses, in part, on the entities that would approve various IRAPs. The NPRM establishes a process for recognizing so-called “standards recognition entities (SREs),” what groups may become SREs, their responsibilities and requirements, as well as the “hallmarks of the high-quality apprenticeship programs” they will recognize.

The proposed rule also describes how IRAPs would operate in parallel with the registered apprenticeship program.

“The Department believes its industry-led, market-driven approach provides the flexibility necessary to scale up the apprenticeship model where it is needed most and helps address America’s skills gap,” according to DOL.

The department said it would ensure that SREs have the capacity and quality-assurance processes and procedures needed to monitor IRAPs. DOL’s criteria for high-quality IRAPs include paid work, work-based learning, mentorship, education and instruction, industry-recognized credentials, safety and supervision, and equal employment opportunity obligations.

A panel of reviewers from DOL’s Apprenticeship Office and contractors from the credentialing industry would evaluate SRE applications.

“This is a similar relationship to the one that exists between the U.S. Department of Education and higher education accrediting bodies,” DOL said.

SREs would be recognized for five years before they would have to reapply.

The proposed rule will officially be launched Tuesday in the Federal Register with a 60-day comment period.

Expanding to nontraditional areas

In addition to the proposed rule, DOL also announced its awarding of $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, funded through H-1B visa fees, will support the training of more than 85,000 apprentices in new or expanded apprenticeship programs, and increase apprenticeship opportunities, especially for veterans, military spouses and groups that are underrepresented in apprenticeships, such as women and people of color.

Grant recipients include community 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.

The 23 academic institutions and consortia receiving grants with their private-sector partners are:

Alabama (advanced manufacturing)
Alabama Community College System with the Manufacturing Institute of the National Association of Manufacturers

Arizona (advanced manufacturing)
Pima County Community College District and four colleges with the Manufacturing Institute of the National Association of Manufacturers, National Tooling & Machining Association, and National Institute of Metalworking Skills

California (advanced manufacturing)
West Los Angeles College and five colleges with the Aerospace Industries Association, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Institute for American Apprenticeships and 17 firms

Colorado (health care)
Colorado Department of Higher Education and Colorado Community College System with Kaiser Permanente, Centura Health, HealthOne/HCA, UCHealth and Colorado Rural Health Center

Connecticut (advanced manufacturing)
Connecticut State Colleges & Universities with Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Electric Boat, IBM, Sound Manufacturing, and Pratt & Whitney

Florida (information technology)
Florida International University Board of Trustees and a coalition of urban-serving universities with the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation and three firms

Florida (information technology)
Miami Dade College and Polk State College with the Computing Technology Industry Association and Kaseya

Illinois (information technology)
Illinois Community College Board and City Colleges of Chicago with the Computing Technology Industry Association

Indiana (information technology)
Purdue University with five associations and seven firms

Massachusetts (information technology)
Trustees of Clark University and six colleges with 13 firms

Maryland (health care)
Community College of Baltimore County with Johns Hopkins Medicine and three hospitals

Missouri (advanced manufacturing)
St. Louis Community College and eight colleges with the National Institute of Metalworking

New Jersey (health care)
Bergen Community College and participants from the New Jersey Council of County Colleges with CVS Health and five health-care entities

New Jersey (advanced manufacturing)
County College of Morris and seven community colleges with the German American Chamber of Commerce, Siemens, UPS, and five firms

New York (advanced manufacturing)
Research Foundation for the State University of New York and 57 firms

Ohio (advanced manufacturing)
Lorain County Community College with Manufacturing Institute of the National Association of Manufacturers, Ohio Manufacturers Association and National Institute of Metalworking Skills

Ohio (information technology)
Columbus State Community College and 25 colleges and universities with 10 firms

Ohio (information technology)
University of Cincinnati and five colleges with Northrup Grumman, IBM, GE Aviation and four firms

Pennsylvania (advanced manufacturing)
Pennsylvania College of Technology and New Jersey Institute of Technology with four associations and seven firms

Texas (health care)
Dallas County Community College District with the American Hospital Association and nine health-care entities

Texas (information technology)
San Jacinto Community College District and three college districts with IBM, Lockheed Martin, Cerner Corporation, Cisco Systems and Rackspace

Utah (information technology)
Weber State University and two colleges with 14 firms

West Virginia (information technology)
West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education and nine colleges and universities with 17 firms

More apprenticeship grants

DOL also announced a new solicitation to award up to $100 million in grant funds through the Apprenticeships: Closing the Skills Gap grant program. It intends to fund up to 30 grants, with awards ranging from $500,000 to $6 million. Grants may be local/regional, statewide or national in scale. Funding will depend on the proposed geographic scope of the apprenticeship project.

The deadline for applications is September 24.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.