ACTION NEEDED: DOL Issues Proposed Rule Establishing Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs
On June 25, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a proposed rule establishing an alternative to the registered apprenticeship programs: the industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAP). IRAPs represent a new pathway for the expansion of apprenticeships.
The requirements for registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs) in construction, and other RAP programs remain unchanged – AT LEAST FOR NOW. The Department of Labor has given all parties of interest just 60 days to convince DOL of the need to support the current registered apprenticeship standards for construction. We know the non-union advocates of relaxed or unenforced training standards will comment in large numbers seeking to take down the DOL registered programs after decades of effort.
Simply put: If we do not rise to this challenge to act on behalf of the RAP apprenticeship system we jointly fund and administer, the system could be changed and devalued after the final rules are published in 60 days.
While IRAPs are a path to allow other industries outside of construction to progress toward a gold-standard apprenticeship program, if applied to the construction industry, the blow to registered programs would have a widespread and incalculable long-term impact, undercutting the level playing field currently protected by prevailing wage laws.
We need you to take action by engaging and sending your persuasive comments to the Secretary of Labor, federal officials and even political allies on the federal level. Your comments need to underscore the importance of our programs and that they need to be upheld and protected by the DOL.
Allowing IRAPS in our industry would create confusion and reward those who have avoided the costs and effort needed to build and develop first rate apprentices and journey people across the construction industry. If this diluted and disjointed apprentice system were permitted in the construction industry, our first-rate programs could become synonymous with second-rate alternatives in the eyes of owners, general contractors and the government.
DON'T LET THAT HAPPEN!
Under the proposed rule, entities such as trade, industry, and employer groups or associations, could become a Standards Recognition Entity (SRE) that sets standards for training, structure, and curricula for IRAPs in their relevant industries. There would be multiple SREs, each with their own unique standards and each would be recognized through the U.S. Department of Labor. This "reform" would create massive confusion and represents a MAJOR change in the way apprenticeships are created and monitored for quality and employee value.
Currently there is a 60-day comment period open where the DOL will hear from the public and interested organizations.
We strongly urge members to submit their comments on this proposal directly to the DOL. Every letter counts and will allow our collective voices to be stronger and heard loud and clear by the DOL.
KEY POINTS TO MAKE IN YOUR COMMENTS
NOTE: The DOL now uses text recognition software to weed-out cut-and-paste form letters. We encourage you to use the following template, but please use your own words.
1. The DOL should maintain an exemption for the construction industry within the proposed rule.
- The Deparment of Labor should not permit approval of IRAPs in the construction industry.
- Construction represents 48% of all registered apprenticeship programs in the United States. The industry does not lack high-quality apprenticeship training opportunities.
- We invest extensive amounts of money and resources into apprenticeship training.
- Our company greatly benefits from having skilled, trained workers.
- Less rigorous apprenticeship programs competing in the same arena would do harm.
- Therefore, the DoL should not permit approval of IRAPs in the construction industry.
2. We should keep a clear distinction between registered apprentice programs and IRAPS.
- Our current registered apprenticeship programs go through a rigorous review process by the DOL or a state agency and have strict oversight. IRAPs have not been vetted and will not be overseen closely. Therefore, a bright line distinction is appropriate and warranted.
- Registered programs have proven records of commitment to providing in-classroom training in addition to job-site training. IRAPs are unproven. Therefore, a bright line distinction is appropriate and warranted.
3. New IRAPs should not be approved (or re-approved) unless and until the SRE’s application is subject to public comment.
- The proposed rule envisions that the approval process will involve DoL staff and contractors from the industry. However, a better approach would be to allow a public comment period on all applications.
- This will better ensure that the SRE applicant has the expertise necessary to ensure a high-quality training program, as well as the, outlined a training curriculum and requirements resulting in apprentices with sought after competencies and industry-recognized credentials.
- Input should be allowed from: workers, industry contractors, and those involved in current training programs in a given industry.
- These related parties may have valuable insight into the type, length, and needed structure of quality apprentice programs.
- Protection of confidential business information can be addressed within the application process so not all portions of the application are made public.
4. Complaints regarding an SRE should not be restricted in cases where apprentices and other third parties are not immediately aware of violations.
The proposed rules allow for certain third parties and apprentices to make a complaint about violations or deficiencies in a SRE’s operation. However, the complaining party has only 60 days from the date of the circumstances giving rise to the complaint to file with the DOL.
- The proposed 60-day rule will bar legitimate complaints from being filed unless it is modified.
- Apprentices and other third parties that do not have regular access to records of an SRE.
- Therefore, related third parties may not learn of discrimination or other wrongdoing by an SRE or one of its IRAPs for some time after the violation occurs.
- Therefore, the DOL should allow a complaint to be filed up to 60 days from the date of first knowledge of a violation having occurred. This would better align with labor and employment laws and significantly improve the proposed rule.