New Legislation Seeks To Expand National Apprenticeship System

The U.S. House passed a bill that could lead to a boom in apprenticeships. It awaits Senate approval.

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Late last week the U.S. House of Representatives approved the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021 (H.R. 447), a piece of legislation intended to increase apprenticeship programs in the U.S. and provide more wide-spread access to these programs. The act would invest more than $3.5 billion over five years into the national registered apprenticeship system, creating nearly one million new apprenticeship opportunities.

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“This bill would update programs created under the original National Apprenticeship Act for the twenty-first century, promoting greater diversity in apprenticeships and boosting women’s participation, which right now is only at 10 percent,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement.

“It would permanently authorize the Labor Department’s Office of Apprenticeship and charge it with building new partnerships among labor unions, educational institutions, and industry to launch new apprenticeship tracks from classrooms and training centers into full-time jobs.”

The National Apprenticeship Act also authorizes $400 million to $800 million in new grant funding to support the creation or expansion of registered apprenticeships. The bill requires Senate approval before becoming law.

Apprenticeship programs have grown substantially in popularity in the U.S. over the last decade, with active apprenticeships climbing from just under 400,000 in 2010 to more than 600,000 by 2019. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 94 percent of those who complete an apprenticeship retain employment, earning an average annual salary of $70,000.

Organizations from different sectors of the construction industry reacted positively to the bill.

“Apprenticeships are a proven pathway to well-paying employment,” said Dave Viola, CEO of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials. “We applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for passing this important piece of legislation and encourage the Senate to quickly pass it as well.”

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) also voiced its support for the Act while suggesting more can be done.

“NAHB welcomes a number of provisions in H.R. 447, chiefly those affording increased flexibility and options for registered apprenticeship program structuring,” the NAHB said in a statement. “NAHB would like to see additional improvements made to the bill and will work with lawmakers as the legislation moves to the Senate.”