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On Friday, October 13, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a joint letter to Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta expressing concern over the Department of Labor’s (DOL) recent cancelation of several ApprenticeshipUSA equity and intermediary contracts and inaction on a next round of funding under the State Apprenticeship Expansion (SAE) grants. Rep. DeLauro and Sen. Murray, both Congressional appropriators, called on DOL to continue funding these efforts and voiced concerns about the Secretary’s intended steps to implement President Trump’s June 15, 2017 Executive Order, “Expanding Apprenticeship in America” (EO).
Last Fall, DOL released $50.5 million in 18-month grants to thirty-six states and Guam to spur state innovation to expand access to apprenticeship. DOL also contracted with ten industry intermediaries to improve access to apprenticeship within target industries and with four equity intermediaries to improve completion and retention rates for populations underrepresented in apprenticeship.
Both the SAE grants and intermediary contracts were funded from $90 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funding appropriated to DOL to expand apprenticeship in the U.S. Congress increased that appropriation to $95 million in FY 2017, the Murray/DeLauro letter notes that the intent of the FY 2017 appropriation was for DOL to “build off of the success of the [ApprenticeshipUSA] program and continue funding registered apprenticeship.” Currently, DOL has not announced how the FY 2017 funds will be allocated, although the EO does calls for the Secretary of Labor to use Congressionally appropriated funds and H-1B funding to promote apprenticeship.
The President’s June EO also announced a proposal to provide industry associations, unions, and other stakeholders the flexibility to develop standards for "industry-recognized apprenticeships," established a task force on apprenticeship expansion, and tasked the Secretary with releasing regulations to implement this new certified apprenticeship system based on task force recommendations.
Rep. DeLauro and Sen. Murray ask the Secretary to ensure any industry recognized apprenticeships include quality assurance standards such as requiring programs to culminate in transferrable credentials and request the Secretary share with their offices a “full description of the Department’s current status of any rulemaking…and how the Department plans to enforce the protections of registered apprenticeships within any proposed rule.”
Rep. DeLauro and Sen. Murray’s letter comes as Congressional appropriators negotiate a FY 2018 spending package, on which they have until December 8th to reach an agreement. A continuing resolution passed by the House and Senate in September that funds the government until then also included a temporary suspension of the federal debt ceiling, putting pressure on legislators to reach a bipartisan agreement on spending. The House passed a FY 2018 spending bill that did not include funding for apprenticeship and included deep cuts to other workforce and education programs. The Senate Labor-HHS bill largely level funded workforce and education programs in 2018 and did include $95 million for apprenticeship.
National Skills Coalition has forthcoming recommendations to DOL on next steps to implement the initiatives in the EO in a manner consistent with business needs, worker capacities and community interest and looks forward to working with national, state and local partners to communicate priorities for the implementation of the EO and the FY 2018 spending package to Congress and the administration.