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DOL Rescinds Trump's Employer-Led Apprenticeships

A sign for the united states department of labor.

​The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) today announced a final rule to rescind the Trump administration's industry-recognized apprenticeship model that allowed employers and trade groups to create and oversee their own apprenticeship programs.

The DOL will instead direct its resources toward its own regulated system of registered apprenticeships, the department said. The rule goes into effect Nov. 25.

After years of development, the final rule establishing industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs), which were to exist alongside the DOL-regulated system, was issued in March 2020. The rule allowed for the creation of apprenticeship programs by third parties called standards recognition entities (SREs), which included industry groups, businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions and unions.

The DOL said it will work with previously recognized SREs and IRAPs to explore opportunities to integrate into the registered apprenticeship system and will provide IRAP apprentices with resources to connect them with registered apprenticeship training opportunities.

Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-Va., applauded the Biden administration for ending what he called a "wasteful" program. "IRAPs discarded key features responsible for the success of our registered apprenticeship system, including quality standards and worker protections," he said. "Every dollar spent on IRAPs was a dollar not spent on established, high-quality apprenticeship opportunities that provide apprentices with decent wages, portable skills and nationally recognized credentials."

The ranking member of the committee, Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., slammed the new rule terminating employer-led apprenticeships. "Instead of promoting employer-led apprenticeship programs—which allow job creators to provide workers with the tools for success—the DOL is giving them the axe," she said. "Job creators are on the front lines of their respective industries every day, and understand the exact skills workers need to be successful. It is sheer lunacy to think that Washington bureaucrats, who have never worked in the industries they hope to regulate, would know better."

We've rounded up articles from SHRM Online and other outlets to provide more context on the news.

Not Up to Standards

The DOL said that it does not believe that the IRAPs offer "high-quality training with an emphasis on apprentice safety and welfare," due to fewer training and worker protection standards as compared to registered apprenticeships, which are directly regulated by the department.  

The DOL also determined that two of the key justifications for issuing the 2020 IRAP final rule—the purported inflexibility in the registered apprenticeship system and the administrative burdens hindering the ability to meet the needs of different industries—are fundamentally flawed.

(U.S. Department of Labor)

Biden Reverses Course on Employer-Led Apprenticeships

In November 2021, the Biden administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking rescinding the regulation establishing IRAPs and allowing the department to direct its resources toward expanding access to its registered apprenticeship system.

(SHRM Online)

IRAPs Draw Support, Criticism

The IRAP model was cheered by employer groups and Republicans for its emphasis on giving employers more flexibility in providing on-the-job training without the red tape of the registered apprenticeship process. But the initiative garnered significant criticism from worker advocates and Democrats, who worried that outsourcing oversight of the programs to third parties would undermine wage and employment protections.

(SHRM Online)

SHRM Foundation Creates HR Apprenticeship Program

The SHRM Foundation launched an apprenticeship program in February 2021 under a grant from the DOL to help employers develop human resource specialists at their organizations.

(SHRM Online)

House Approves Apprenticeship Overhaul

The National Apprenticeship Act of 2021—which would invest billions of dollars in the DOL's registered apprenticeship system, codify standards, and expand the work-based learning model to new communities and industries—passed the House of Representatives in February 2021. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

(SHRM Online)


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