Republican appropriators criticize proposed apprenticeship regs

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama), chair of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, addresses proposed regulations for registered apprenticeships at a hearing on Wednesday. (Image: Screenshot from streamed event)

Several GOP members of the House panel that oversees funding for U.S. Department of Labor programs are taking issue with the department’s proposed rules to revamp the registered apprenticeship program, saying the rules would infringe on state autonomy.

At a House appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday on DOL’s fiscal year (FY) 2025 budget request, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama), chair of the panel, and Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-Kansas) both expressed concerns about the proposed regulations. DOL officials have previously said that the department is taking a forwarding-thinking approach with the proposed regs (which were released in January), focusing on expansion, equity and innovation in apprenticeships.

“Last year, I would have expressed my appreciation and support for the department’s continued commitment to registered apprenticeship programs,” Aderholt said in his opening statement at the hearing. DOL is seeking $335 million for apprenticeship programs for FY 2025. That’s a $50 million increase.

But DOL’s proposed regs would limit what his state can do with registered apprenticeships, noting the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship was created in 2019 with the goal of improving workforce participation through apprenticeships. The office also was created, in part, over frustration with DOL.

“These frustrations include a bureaucratic and outdated one-size-fits-all approach to skilled training and overly prescriptive requirements,” Aderholt said.

He also alluded that many employers who seek DOL approval for their registered apprenticeships don’t feel the department is impartial.

Issue over apprenticeship approvals

LaTurner echoed those concerns about the proposed regs, saying they would strip state apprenticeship agencies’ ability to recognize suitable occupations for apprenticeships and would centralize this authority with DOL.

This would “completely undermine state autonomy and almost certainly lead to disconnect between local labor markets and the needs for apprenticeship opportunities,” LaTurner said.

He asked Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su about the number of requests DOL receives from “apprenticeable” industries, the average time it takes the department to decide on request and reasons why applications were denied.  

Su responded that DOL approves applications for registered apprenticeship programs based, in part, on workforce demands.

“They have to be tied to the needs of employers,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense to train for skills that are not needed or jobs that don’t exist.” She added that other factors are also considered such as wage, wage progression and the opportunity to advance.

Su also discussed registered apprenticeships more broadly, noting they can help more women, people of color, military veterans and people with disabilities into a pathway for good-paying jobs. And there is continued growth among industries using apprenticeships as a workforce development strategy, she added, citing sectors such as teaching and childcare.

DOL continues to progress toward the president’s goal to serve at least 1 million apprentices annually within 10 years, Su continued.

Kudos to community colleges

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), the appropriation subcommittee’s ranking member, said she appreciated the administration’s modest increase for the Strengthening Community College Training Grants program — which she created as chair of the subcommittee — and would actually like to see more funding for the program. The president’s FY2025 budget would increase funding to $70 million, a $5 million boost over FY 23.

“Community colleges are uniquely positioned to support local workforce development and industry needs,” she said. “They are more accessible to more families and they should be a focal point for our investment.”

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.
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