President Biden has revoked an executive order issued by his predecessor that expanded apprenticeship programs in an “industry-led” model, instead announcing plans to expand the Labor Department’s registered apprenticeship programs favored by organized labor.
The Trump administration created “industry recognized apprenticeships.” The idea was that the Department of Labor would bring together trade and labor groups to design and certify high-quality apprenticeships appropriate for each industry, emphasizing that each industry could define its industry needs and appropriate apprenticeship programs, rather than managing apprenticeships from Washington, as then-Labor Secretary Alex Acosta explained during the American Trucking Associations Management Conference & Exhibition in 2017.
“You are in the best position to define what your industry needs and react to those needs…. Barriers that stood the way of apprenticeship programs are ready to come down.”
The IRAP model was supported by some companies for offering flexibility in training workers without the red tape of the registered apprenticeship process. As a report in Bloomberg notes, however, “the project was slow to come to fruition, as Democrats in Congress blocked funding and the implementing regulations weren’t finalized until last year.” In fact, Bloomberg points out, the first IRAP wasn’t announced until last October, when Raytheon Technologies was names as a pilot participant.
On Feb. 17, the same day he met with leaders of organized labor, President Biden signed an executive order revoking Trump’s June 15, 2017 (Expanding Apprenticeships in America) order.
Biden explained that IRAPS “threaten to undermine registered apprenticeship programs,” saying they have “fewer quality standards than registered apprenticeship programs – for example, they fail to require the wage progression that reflects increasing apprentice skills and they lack the standardized training rigor that ensures employers know they are hiring a worker with high-quality training.”
In addition to rescinding Executive Order 13801, which spurred the creation of these programs, Biden also asked the Department of Labor to consider a new rulemaking to reverse these programs and to immediately slow support for industry recognized apprenticeship programs by pausing approval of new Standards Recognition Entities and ending new funding for existing Standards Recognition Entities.
Instead, the White House announced, it will take steps to “bolster registered apprenticeships.”
“Due in large part to the hard work of North America’s Building Trades Unions and other unions, registered apprenticeships have been a reliable pathway to the middle class for decades – including for workers who don’t go to college – by training workers for good jobs and allowing them to earn while they learn,” said a Biden statement. Steps he is taking, in addition to scrapping the IRAP program, include:
- asking the Department of Labor to reinstate the longstanding National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships.
- endorsing the bipartisan National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, which will create and expand registered apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs.
Bill Sullivan, executive vice president of advocacy for the American Trucking Associations, said the association "supports any program that increases opportunities for new talent to come into our industry, which included the previous administration’s apprenticeship program.
"While there wasn’t yet significant uptake of industry recognized apprenticeship in trucking, we believe that expanding the ways individuals can become safe and effective truck drivers should be a goal not just for our industry but for policy makers who want great career opportunities for Americans. Regardless of this policy change, we will be working with the Biden administration to continue to expand opportunities for great middle-class jobs in trucking.”