DOL proposal would eliminate Trump-era apprenticeship program

Signage is seen at the United States Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • DOL wants to wipe out apprenticeships overseen by companies, trade groups
  • Republicans have said the programs would spur job creation
  • Biden criticized programs' lack of quality standards

(Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Labor on Friday said it was moving to eliminate a Trump-era program that allowed businesses and trade groups to create and oversee their own apprenticeships, which many Democrats and unions claimed was unlawful and ripe for abuse.

The Labor Department in a notice published in the Federal Register said the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP) was duplicative of separate programs endorsed by the department and lacked sufficient oversight to ensure quality.

"The Department thinks that the existence of two parallel systems is an inefficient and ineffective use of its resources," DOL said in the proposal.

The proposal will be formally published on Monday, kicking off a 60-day public comment period.

Business groups and many Republicans had backed the IRAP program, saying it would spur the creation of more apprenticeships and help create jobs that do not require college degrees.

Trade groups said employers were reluctant to participate in federally recognized apprenticeship programs because the requirements were too burdensome. Apprenticeship programs must meet a host of criteria to be certified by DOL, such as wage guarantees and safety standards.

But critics of IRAPs claimed they violate the National Apprenticeship Act (NAA), which requires DOL to formulate standards "necessary to safeguard the welfare of apprentices."

President Joe Biden in February rescinded a Trump-era executive order that called for the creation of the IRAP program. The White House said IRAPs "lack the standardized training rigor that ensures employers know they are hiring a worker with high-quality training."

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.