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By Bob Dunlevey of Taft/Law on Monday, 4/1/2024

The federal government is currently spending hundreds of millions of dollars to expand apprenticeship programs and opportunities for employers who participate in these programs and hire apprentices. Don’t be left behind!

In March, by Executive Order, registered apprenticeships (RA) were expanded by, among other things, encouraging governmental agencies to provide preferences on projects to employers which hire these apprentices. Many of these projects have been spawned by the trillions of dollars spent on the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure law, CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. The E.O. requires federal agencies to identify potential occupations for expanding federally registered apprentice programs and expand the use of registered apprentices through the use of grants and contracts for employers utilizing apprentices. These programs are not just for construction or manufacturing but involve a wide variety of industries and occupations – everything from Chip Technicians to H.R. Specialists. If you are involved with these industries already benefiting from apprentices, you should consider how you can enhance your existing programs through these new initiatives.

This E.O. builds upon nearly $200 million in funding opportunities recently made available to expand, diversify, and strengthen RA programs. In February, the DOL made available $95 million in grants through the Apprenticeship Building America Program as well as $100 million for state apprenticeship expansion grants. Last year, five large city workforce hubs were commissioned including one in Columbus, Ohio which is intended to catalyze thousands of new union construction jobs and hundreds of new registered apprenticeship and pre-apprentice positions for the new businesses coming to Ohio. In manufacturing, the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Sprint program has been created, a drive to build diverse, skilled workers for manufacturing jobs in clean energy, biotechnology, semiconductors, and other segments. 150 new advanced manufacturing RA programs are being created with 4,700 new apprentices to be hired.

At the same time, the DOL is undertaking a major revision of the regulations for the national apprenticeship system originally established in 1937 and last updated in 2008. The revisions are significant and seek “to strengthen, expand, modernize and diversify” the System “by enhancing worker protections and equity, improving the quality of registered apprenticeship programs and revising state apprenticeship agency programs.” DEI is emphasized along with expanding RA opportunities in new industries and occupations. See DOL national apprenticeship system enhancements here. Some consider the proposed regulations controversial due to alleged burdensome administrative procedures and the removal of the competency-based model for apprentices, among other things.

With these dramatic changes to state and federal apprentice programs, not only union employers, but non-union alike will have greater opportunities to adopt and participate in a broad array of apprenticeship programs and reap the financial benefits of employing apprentices through state and federal grants, preferred provider projects, and other incentives. Now is the time to explore these opportunities!

For more information, contact Bob Dunlevey, Board Certified Specialist in Labor and Employment Law, Taft Law, (937) 641-1743. He represents employers and Associations throughout the United States involving NLRB, EEOC, OSHA and DOL matters and has been awarded Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyer designations.

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