Bye-bye, IRAPs


The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on Friday announced a final rule to rescind the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program, ending a fledgling effort to expand apprenticeships that was marred in politics from the start.

DOL said in a release that it determined the IRAP program had created a “duplicative, lower-quality system that was not in the best interest of workers and industries.”

“By contrast, the Registered Apprenticeship system has an established 85-year record of promoting apprentices’ welfare and ensuring program quality in an expanding number of diverse occupations and industries,” it said.

The move is not a surprise as the Biden administration basically stopped the program in early 2021 by rescinding an executive order signed during the Trump administration that created it. IRAPs were touted as a way to circumvent federal red tape to encourage more companies to participate in apprenticeships. But its critics argued that IRAPs were not proven to produce quality experiences, among other concerns.

“IRAPs discarded key features responsible for the success of our registered apprenticeship system, including quality standards and worker protections,” Rep. Bobby Scott, chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, said following DOL’s announcement. “Every dollar spent on IRAPs was a dollar not spent on established, high-quality apprenticeship opportunities that provide apprentices with decent wages, portable skills, and nationally recognized credentials.”

Scott said he wants to work with the administration to get the bipartisan, House-passed National Apprenticeship Act of 2021 through the Senate and signed into law.

Republicans on the committee fired back, saying the rule is “another attempt by the Biden administration to bulldoze its way into the American workforce and expand federal control.”

“Instead of promoting employer-led apprenticeship programs — which allow job creators to provide workers with the tools for success — the Department of Labor is giving them the axe. Job creators are on the front lines of their respective industries every day, and understand the exact skills workers need to be successful,” The committee’s Republicans said in a statement.

As part of its final rule, the department said it will work with entities that were approved to participate in IRAPs to “explore opportunities to become program sponsors or intermediaries in the RA system and will provide IRAP apprentices with resources to connect them with Registered Apprenticeship training opportunities.”

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.