The Department of Labor received more than 300,000 comments on it Proposed Apprenticeship Rule. The vast majority of those comments were from the construction industry, and not surprisingly the trade unions and ABC and AGC are split on the issue.
The Department of Labor issued its proposed regulations on June 25. The proposed rules would establish a process through which industry groups could create industry related apprenticeship programs. The DOL’s mission behind the rule states:
The department proposes recognizing entities that show that they have the expertise to set standards for high-quality programs that result in industry-recognized credentials and equip apprentices with competencies needed for proficiency in specified industries or occupational areas, as would be demonstrated through components of the entity’s proposed application
But, the DOL has proposed exempting the construction industry from the regulations and the reasoning behind such a move is not clear. The battle lines, however, are clear. Union contractors support the exemption while merit shop trade organizations, such as Associated General Contractors and Associated Builders and Contractors, have opposed the exemption.
ABC’s comments make clear that it supports the DOL’s effort to establish a process for creating high-quality, industry-recognized apprenticeship programs. ABC also questions the DOL’s decision to exclude the construction industry and commented:
By excluding all construction industry-recognized workforce development programs from the proposed rule, the DOL is creating a perverse disincentive to increased education opportunities and is prolonging the skills shortage in the construction industry.
With the current labor shortage in the construction industry, it seems logical that more apprenticeship programs would allow for more opportunity in construction and increase the number of workers. Only time will tell whether the DOL will modify the proposed rule and allow the construction industry to participate in the proposed apprenticeship program, but exactly why the DOL would exclude the construction industry from this opportunity is a head scratcher.