House passes apprenticeships bill

Rep. Susan Davis (D-California) speaks in support of the 2020 National Apprenticeship Act during debate on the House floor Thursday. (Screenshot of streamed debate)

The House on Friday passed a bill that would revamp the nation’s main apprenticeship law, even managing to secure votes from some Republicans.

In a 246-to-140 vote, Democrats passed their 2020 National Apprenticeship Act, with 15 Republicans voting for the measure. Earlier this week, the House Rules Committee passed the legislation along party lines. The same happened when the House Education and Labor Committee passed the measure in September.

The Senate doesn’t have a companion bill so the measure won’t likely pass Congress this year. However, advocates of the proposed legislation hope it will muster more support from Republicans if Democrats reintroduce the measure in the next Congress.

During floor debate of H.R. 8294 on Thursday and Friday, both parties lauded apprenticeships. But Republicans argued the bill is missing an opportunity to expand apprenticeships by not permitting federal funding for programs such as industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs).

“It’s a modest step in the right direction, but it is a step in the right direction,” said Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Georgia), who voted against the bill. He said including IRAPs in the measure would have allowed more small and medium-sized businesses to use apprenticeships by skipping some bureaucratic red tape.

Democrats, however, said programs such as IRAPs are untested, and that language in the bill will actually help to add about 1 million new registered apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships, as well as expand the workforce development model into industries that don’t traditionally use it, such as healthcare and technology. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia), chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, also highlighted the estimated economic benefits of the bill in additional tax revenue and reducing reliance on public support programs.

About the Author

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