Administration action on industry certified apprenticeship likely next week

By Katie Spiker, March 09, 2018

Last summer, the President signed an Executive Order on Expanding Apprenticeship in America. Since then, the Department of Labor has been at work on implementing the content of the order – appointing and convening members of a task force to develop recommendations on implementing the new “Industry Recognized Apprenticeship” system, drafting guidance and regulations on what the new system will look like, allocating $95 million Congress appropriated to apprenticeship last year and the about $100 million the EO directs them to spend on this initiative.

The task force is scheduled to meet for the third time next week, and the administration could release guidance and announce their spending plans to coincide with the meeting.

The guidance will likely focus on how an entity would qualify as a certifier of the new industry-recognized apprenticeships and the role of the certifier in the new system. While it won’t include all the specifics about the creation or operation of an industry-recognized apprenticeship system, it will help us think about what the administration is likely to propose in future regulations.

Last fall, we released recommendations to the task force and administration for implementing the EO in a way that diversifies the pipelines of workers who can access and succeed in apprenticeship, while ensuring that a broad range of businesses – including small and medium sized employers – are able to take advantage of these earn and learn models.

When the administration releases this first piece of guidance, we’ll be looking at how well it aligns with our recommendations.

  • Does the guidance enable and solicit robust and transparent feedback from diverse stakeholders?
  • Is there a role for local and regional entities to contribute to the certification process, in partnership with national organizations?
  • How will certifiers promote quality standards within apprenticeships that benefit both workers and businesses?
  • What recruitment and retention strategies will certifiers need to uphold to promote a diverse pipeline of apprentices?
  • Which data are certifiers able or required to collect on programs?

In addition to offering feedback on the upcoming guidance around the certification role and process, the task force has divided into four subcommittees to make recommendations to the administration on other aspects of the industry recognized apprenticeship system (promoting equity, regulatory strategies, attracting businesses, and credentialing). The task force members are scheduled to wrap up their work by May.

At the same time, DOL is also allocating the $95 million in funds Congress appropriated last year to support expanding apprenticeship and $100 million the EO directs to be spent. Half of the appropriated funding is likely to go to states to continue existing grants. About $20 million will go to update technology and market apprenticeship. And almost $14 million has been spent on contracts with national intermediaries working to expand apprenticeship to either a diverse pipeline of workers or new industries. It’s difficult to predict how the administration will use the $100 million identified in the EO to support industry-certified apprenticeship before a system is established. It seems likely, however, they would combine any guidance with a grant program that supports the strategies identified in that guidance.

NSC will offer analysis of how well the framework for this new system, and the funding to support it, integrates the guidance we offered last year as the administration continues their efforts. You can read NSC’s full recommendations here.

As we anticipate these announcements, NSC is engaging our network of experts on work-based learning and apprenticeship through our National Advisory Panel on Work-Based Learning for Adults and Youth. Over the coming year, the advisory panel will guide and inform NSC’s work on the expansion of a broad spectrum of work-based learning activities, including apprenticeship. Our goal is to diversify a pipeline of workers with ability to access and succeed in high-quality work-based learning opportunities and to support a broad range of businesses – including small- and medium-sized businesses – in developing and running these same programs.

You can read more about our federal policy proposals to support this goal in our Skills for Good Jobs Agenda for 2018. It includes summaries of the PARTNERS Act and BUILDS Act, both bipartisan bills to support the expansion of work-based learning, and a new proposal we’ve developed on expanding the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to include a credit for businesses offering work-based learning opportunities to WOTC targeted populations. And you can urge your members to champion these policy solutions here.

NSC and New America also continue to convene the Apprenticeship Forward Collaborative, a group of national organizations focused on expanding apprenticeship to a diverse pipeline of workers and businesses – including small- and medium-sized businesses – in a range of industries. You can find a full list of partners and recap from our 2017 conference on the Apprenticeship Forward website here.

NSC looks forward to continuing work with the administration, Congress, and our national, state and local partners to expand apprenticeship and work-based learning to help workers develop skills to meet business demand.