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The U.S. House of Representatives voted, prior to leaving Washington for the Thanksgiving Break, to pass H.R. 8294, The National Apprenticeship Act of 2020. The vote was (246-140) along party lines, with House Democrats voting in favor and House Republicans voting against. Twenty Republican members crossed the aisle to vote in favor of the legislation.
This bill was introduced by Representative Susan Davis (D-CA) in an effort to expand the National Apprenticeship system to include apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, as well as set national labor and welfare standards for apprenticeship programs. Additionally, if passed, the National Apprenticeship Act would codify the structure of the Office of Apprenticeship and the National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship within the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and authorize dedicated funds for DOL to award apprenticeship grants.
The National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 invests nearly $3.5 billion over five years to expand the scale of apprenticeship opportunities, promote apprenticeships in new, in-demand industries, and streamline the process of access to apprenticeship opportunities for employees and employers. This legislation is projected to create nearly one million new apprenticeship opportunities over the next five years.
Apprenticeship programs have long been a central tenet to the American workforce, and opportunities for students to participate in post-secondary education that is not a traditional 4-year university is of great value. According to the Department of Labor, 94 percent of apprentices who complete a registered apprenticeship program are employed upon completion. However, only a small number of Americans are currently enrolled in apprenticeship programs. This bill seeks to expand opportunities for those apprenticeship programs to allow students to enter the workforce with sufficient knowledge and experience in an important trade.
The National Apprenticeship Act, H.R. 8294, will now move to the United States Senate for debate and vote. This bill is unlikely to have bipartisan support for passage. Republicans are concerned about the exclusion of Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs) for funding. IRAPs were created by the Trump Administration to provide more flexibility in an apprenticeship program. However, IRAPs have not been well-defined, and Democrats argue that including them in the National Apprenticeship Act could sacrifice some important quality assurance measures for apprenticeship programs.
ASA supports federal apprenticeship programs and will continue to work with Congress as they develop a final national apprenticeship initiative.