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White House Looks to Expand Registered Apprenticeship Programs

  • President Joe Biden endorses the expansion of registered apprenticeships as part of his effort to improve infrastructure in the United States
  • Endorses legislation estimated to create 1 million new apprenticeships
  • Rescinds executive order establishing industry-led apprenticeship programs

Article summary by Dirk Langeveld

The Biden administration has emphasized its support for registered apprenticeships as part of its plan to improve American infrastructure, endorsing legislation to expand these programs and rescinding a Trump-era executive order that sought to minimize the role of the federal government in workforce training.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris recently met with union leaders to discuss the administration’s infrastructure plan and how it can create jobs through the construction of roads and bridges, expansion of transit and broadband, and other upgrades. The plan also seeks to involve American small businesses in the supply chain for this work.

Biden praised registered apprenticeships as a reliable way for Americans to earn middle-class incomes even without a college education. He said this training has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as millions of unemployed workers seek new jobs and young citizens enter a weakened labor marker.

Biden endorsed Rep. Bobby Scott’s National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, which passed earlier this month in a 247-173 vote that included every Democratic member present and 28 Republicans. The legislation expands registered apprenticeships as well as youth and pre-apprenticeship programs. The House Education and Labor Committee estimates it will create 1 million new apprenticeships, expand opportunities for women and people of color, and strengthen partnerships with community colleges.

Biden has asked the Department of Labor to reinstate the National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships with the goal of bringing together stakeholders to build a registered apprenticeship program. This effort will also explore the potential to expand apprenticeships into new fields such as clean energy and health care.

In addition, Biden rescinded an executive order issued by former President Donald Trump which created industry-led recognized apprenticeship programs. Democrats had criticized this measure as not allowing sufficient oversight, and Biden suggested that they had fewer quality standards (such as failing to require wage progression to account for increasing skills) and no standardized training to assure employers that their hires had the necessary skills.

Biden has emphasized his support for unions, including a commitment to use “diverse, local, well-trained workers who have a choice to join a union” to fill jobs created by the administration’s infrastructure plan. However, he has also received some pushback from organized labor, including criticism of his decision to rescind the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Some labor leaders have said this work will support 10,000 union jobs.

The Biden administration is preparing to introduce an economic recovery package next week to improve infrastructure and create jobs.

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