Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion report calls for industry-driven expansion focus coupled with detrimental cuts to workforce programs

By Katie Spiker, May 11, 2018

On May 10th, the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion submitted a report with their recommendations on expanding apprenticeship in the U.S. to the President. The report includes some important recommendations focused on industry-driven strategies, but also continues a disturbing pattern of calls for cuts to vital workforce programs. In our recommendations on expanding apprenticeship last year, NSC urged the administration to focus on strengthening the workforce and education systems that are the foundation of any apprenticeship expansion in this country instead of cutting investments to these systems.

The task force report is based on the work for four subcommittees over the past year and was called for by the President in his June 2017 Executive Order on Expanding Apprenticeship in America. Each subcommittee made a series of recommendations to the President in the May 10th report.

Subcommittee on Education and Credentialing

  • This subcommittee focused on the components of an industry recognized apprenticeship program (IRAP), which includes blended learning, industry recognized skills, mentorship, paid work experience and portable industry recognized credentials. The subcommittee’s recommendation would not require wage progression for apprentices that correspond with their growing skill level.
  • The subcommittee also called for Departments of Labor (DOL) and Education (Ed) to be partners with industry, supporting costs of instruction by increasing access to virtual learning and developing open source core curriculum.

Subcommittee on Attracting Business to Apprenticeship

  • This subcommittee recommended a robust analysis of the skill shortages and the role apprenticeship can play in meeting business skill demands.
  • The subcommittee also recommended the Departments of Labor, Education and Commerce develop a centralized online community with apprenticeship resources.

Subcommittee on Expanding Access, Equity and Career Awareness:

  • This subcommittee recommended launching an awareness campaign, supporting pre-apprenticeship, and promoting the use of technology in apprenticeship programs.
  • The subcommittee also recommended “ensuring equity.” This recommendation would have the Department of Labor implement clear guidelines “that reinforce the principles of equity,” but does not set out what these principles should be.

Subcommittee on Administrative and Regulatory Strategies to Expand Apprenticeship

  • This subcommittee recommended IRAP implementation begin with a pilot program focused on an industry without a well-established registered apprenticeship system.
  • The subcommittee also suggested the system should focus on competency, not seat time requirements, consistent with the administration’s focus on competency-based registered apprenticeship.

In addition to the recommendations above, several subcommittees focused on proposed reforms to the registered apprenticeship system and sought guidance from DOL on how the new IRAP system would interact with the workforce system.

DOL is expected to release guidance on the IRAP certification process in the coming weeks, which is likely to incorporate the task force recommendations. This guidance will focus on how an entity will qualify to certify programs and the role a certifier will play.

Upcoming guidance won’t include all the specifics about the creation or operation of industry-recognized apprenticeships. It will, however, provide insight into future regulation, expected this fall. DOL is expected to release revisions to the regulations covering registered apprenticeships (29 CFR 29) in September to “establish guidelines for third parties to certify high-quality, industry recognized apprenticeship programs.”

Earlier this year, Congress appropriated $145 million to apprenticeship expansion, specifically focused on registered apprenticeship. DOL is tasked with submitting a report to Congress by September 30th 2018 describing their allocation of these funds. Over the past two years, DOL has allocated more than $100 million to 36 states to expand innovating apprenticeship strategies. Appropriated funds have also been used to support industry and equity intermediary contracts to national organizations working with apprenticeship sponsors and businesses to expand apprenticeship. DOL has used remaining funds appropriated in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 for contracts to build out online resources on apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship, consistent with the task force recommendations.

NSC looks forward to working with both Congress and the administration on policies that support the expansion of high-quality, structured apprenticeship that meets the needs of a diverse pipeline of apprentices and businesses, including small and medium-sized companies.