The House on Friday approved an apprenticeship bill, similar to the one it passed this fall, that would expand registered apprenticeships and strengthen pre-apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship programs.
HR 447, the National Apprenticeships Act, passed 227 to 173, with all Democrats voting for the measure plus 27 Republicans. The bill, which is supported by the American Association of Community Colleges and more than 30 other organizations, would invest more than $3.5 billion over five years to create one million apprenticeships.
Registered apprenticeships (RAs) are highly successful, but they are still underused, according to Democrats on the Education and Labor Committee. About 94 percent of people who complete RAs are employed upon completion, earning an average starting wage of above $70,000 annually, according to a fact sheet from the committee. Yet only 0.3% of the overall U.S. workforce have completed an apprenticeship.
The bill would authorize $400 million for programs for fiscal year (FY) 2022, increasing by $100 million annually to $800 million for FY 2026.
Among the goals of the legislations:
- Increase apprenticeships in non-traditional apprenticeship occupations and for populations underrepresented in apprenticeships, including women, who represent about 10% of apprentices.
- Encourage employers to offer more apprenticeship opportunities to people with barriers to employment, including individuals with disabilities and former inmates.
- Codify and streamline standards for RAs, youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, including requirements for apprenticeship agreements and program registration to ensure consistency in quality standards and worker protections.
- Upgrade the data infrastructure to improve reporting and publicly disseminating information about apprenticeship programs.
- Strengthen connections between the U.S. departments of education and labor through an interagency agreement to support the creation and expansion of youth apprenticeships, college consortiums and data-sharing agreements.
“With a new Democratic Senate majority, I am hopeful that this important legislation will receive the consideration it is due, and I am confident that, if sent to the president’s desk, it will be signed into law,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Maryland).
GOP members of the Education and Labor Committee criticized Democrats for not moving the bill through the committee first and for not including so-called industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs) in the legislation.
“This bill would take away opportunities for the 131 IRAPs that have been recognized in the last four months, the vast majority of which are for nursing credentials,” said ranking committee member Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina).
IRAP supporters argue the programs would reduce bureaucratic red tape, which would encourage more companies to offer apprenticeships. Its opponents, however, contend IRAPs are not proven and could potentially reduce guardrails to protect workers.