Senators Propose Tax Credits for Employers that Offer Apprenticeships

June 14, 2017

A pair of bipartisan senators introduced legislation today that would provide a $5,000 tax credit to employers that hire people from registered apprenticeship programs.

Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced their bill aimed at closing the national skills gap as the White House is making a series of announcements on apprenticeships this week. 

The Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act of 2017 goes further than President Donald Trump's actions, according to Cantwell's office, "creating a concrete, powerful incentive for businesses and workers to embrace apprenticeship programs, accelerating the adoption of the apprenticeship model, and helping businesses refocus on the benefits of training and educating their workers."

Apprenticeship programs offer an alternative to a four-year college degree and allow student workers to learn in-demand skills with on-the-job training and, often, an educational component. Employers invest in talent in exchange for their continued labor for an agreed period. Support of apprenticeships and other alternative career pathways has been advocated as a solution for industries like construction and manufacturing that have had trouble hiring qualified workers to replace retiring employees and has found favor in the technology sector, which also faces a large skills gap.

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According to the Washington, D.C.-based National Skills Coalition, an advocacy organization aimed at advancing national investments in workforce development, 53 percent of U.S. jobs are middle-skilled, meaning that they require some form of postsecondary education and training beyond high school but not a four-year degree. Yet, only 43 percent of U.S. workers are trained at this level.

"Employers across a range of industries struggle to find skilled workers, and apprenticeship and other work-based learning strategies are getting increased attention as a solution," said Kermit Kaleba, federal policy director for the National Skills Coalition.

Specifically, the proposed legislation would:

  • Create a $5,000 tax credit for up to three years for companies that hire individuals enrolled in a federal- or state-registered apprenticeship program. Additionally, employers that participate in a multiemployer apprenticeship program would be eligible to receive a credit of $3 per hour that each individual enrolled in the program works. Cantwell claimed that the bill would establish "the first-ever national incentive for apprentice programs."
  • Allow senior employees near retirement to draw from their pensions early if they're involved in the mentoring or training of new employees. Workers must be at least 55 years old and must spend at least 20 percent of their time training or educating employees or students.
  • Help veterans get into skilled jobs that match their military experience sooner by allowing credit in apprenticeship requirements for previous military training.

"The upfront costs for setting up apprenticeships can be daunting, particularly for small and medium-sized employers," Kaleba said. "The Cantwell-Collins bill offers one key tool to address the challenges employers face, and it's a step toward creating pathways to good jobs for U.S. workers."