Biden administration announces expansion of registered apprenticeships

The Biden administration issued an executive order to expand registered apprenticeships, according to a March 6 announcement from the White House.

The order is intended to create more registered apprenticeship programs in the federal workforce and encourage agencies to give higher preference to projects that hire workers who have participated in these programs.

“Registered apprenticeships are a proven strategy to expand equitable training pathways to good-paying jobs, including union jobs,” according to the announcement.

In particular, the executive order directs the Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Department of Labor and other agencies to find ways to reduce barriers and create pathways into federal employment using registered apprenticeships. The agencies are required to deliver a report in 180 days about potential occupations that could use these programs.

In addition, the order directs federal agencies to identify where they could include requirements or incentives for grant recipients or contractors to use workers who participate in registered apprenticeships. Where relevant, the agencies should encourage those requirements or incentives, the executive order states.

Overall, the Biden administration has invested more than $440 million to expand the capacity of the registered apprenticeship system, which has supported the training of more 1 million apprentices nationwide, according to the announcement.

In February, the administration announced nearly $200 million in grants to expand registered apprenticeship programs, especially in high-demand areas such as information technology, cybersecurity, K-12 teaching, the care economy (nursing, early child care, mental health occupations), clean energy, hospitality and supply chain sectors (logistics, warehousing, transportation, manufacturing).

However, a proposed rule to strengthen labor standards, improve quality and bolster worker protections within the registered apprenticeship program has faced backlash. Republican lawmakers said the rule would disincentivize small businesses from participating in the program and impose administrative burdens, such as mandatory disclosures and required adoption of a time-based model.

Although apprenticeships remain outside the mainstream in the U.S., broader adoption could create a key cohort of trained workers, according to a report by Multiverse and the Burning Glass Institute. Nearly 128 million workers could benefit from apprenticeships and on-the-job learning opportunities, they said.

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