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Industry & Trends

White House Reverses Industry Recognized Apprenticeships

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February 22, 2021 | Bill Esler

Washington, DC – The White House ended an apprenticeship program established under the previous administration. Executive Order 13801 had spurred the creation of programs known as Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs).

JC career carpentry

President Joe Biden said the newer IRAPs threatened to undermine already existing Registered Apprenticeship Programs and provided fewer quality standards. For example, IRAPs failed to require the wage progression that reflects increasing apprentice skills, and they lacked a standardized training rigor. The Department of Labor was asked to consider new rulemaking to reverse the programs; to immediately slow support for IRAPs by pausing approval of new Standards Recognition Entities; and to end new funding for existing Standards Recognition Entities.

The Labor Department followed suit by suspending new and pending applications as it considers halting the IRAP, which was described as a duplicative apprenticeship system that may reduce quality, strip protections for apprentices, and cause confusion for industry. 

Registered Apprenticeships Have Soared

Apprentice growth chart

The Biden administration expressed concern that the IRAP created a redundant apprenticeship program, with duplicate and often inferior systems that competed with the highly successful and longstanding Registered Apprenticeship Program. In the past decade, the Registered Apprenticeship Program has helped the careers of more than 1.9 million U.S. workers in over a thousand occupations ranging from traditional careers like electrician, carpenter and plumber, and newer occupations such as software developer, wind turbine technician, cybersecurity analyst, hotel manager, pharmacy tech and 5G wireless technicians.

“Now, more than ever, the American workforce needs to be adapted as long-standing industries transform and create demand for skills in cutting-edge fields like cybersecurity, green energy, software development and data science,” says Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Employment and Training Administration Suzi LeVine. “Apprenticeship is an ‘earn-as-you-learn’ method for equipping workers with the skills employers seek. With continued growth and innovation, Registered Apprenticeships provide pathways to strengthen our workforce and our economy at this critical time in our nation’s history.”

The Labor Department said it will suspend review of new or pending applications for Standards Recognition Entities in the IRAP. The suspension of receipt or review of Standards Recognition Entities’ applications announced today has no impact on the 27 SREs currently approved, and all IRAPs recognized by an SRE will continue to perform their IRAP functions. Previously approved SREs may also continue to recognize additional IRAPs.

The Labor Department also will relaunch, streamline and modernize the Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship, which engages with leaders and practitioners from industry, labor, education, workforce, and community organizations to expand and diversify the proven Registered Apprenticeship model. That committee’s charge will include developing recommendations on how the Registered Apprenticeship Program can better meet the current and future needs of the U.S. workforce. The department will also engage with a broad range of stakeholders to ensure equity and access for underrepresented populations and communities as well as expanded industries with in-demand jobs.

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