If you attended AED’s Washington Fly-In this past June, then you heard about the Trump administration’s goal to develop industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs). In conjunction with these efforts, The AED Foundation has recently determined that it will pursue becoming the accrediting body for future IRAP programs in the construction equipment industry.
On June 15, 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order aimed at expanding apprenticeships in America. The order established a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion to identify strategies and proposals to promote apprenticeships, especially in sectors where apprenticeship programs are insufficient.
The apprenticeship program task force has been working with companies, labor unions, trade associations, educational institutions and public agencies since last year to establish pathways to new, industry-recognized apprenticeships. “These distinguished participants understand that expanding apprenticeships is essential not only to our economy, but to put more Americans on the path to good, safe, family-sustaining careers,” said the then U.S. Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta.
The centerpiece of the new task force’s efforts is its proposal to build on the underutilized apprenticeship concept. In a detailed report, the task force outlined four policy concerns surrounding the expansion of apprenticeships: expanding access, equity, and career awareness; administrative and regulatory strategies; attracting business to apprenticeships; and education and credentialing.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
In June 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) based in part on the task force’s final report. The NPRM would establish a process for the Department to advance the development of high-quality, industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs). The proposed regulation amends key regulations governing apprenticeships, by establishing a set of rules that would govern the selection of Standards Recognition Entities (SREs) and the process by which those SREs would recognize industry apprenticeships.
“The apprenticeship model of earning while learning has worked well in many American industries, and today we open opportunities for apprenticeships to flourish in new sectors of our economy,” said Acosta. “With 7.4 million open jobs and job creators searching for skilled job seekers, apprenticeship expansion will continue to close the skills gap and strengthen the greatest workforce in the world – the American workforce.”
The AED Foundation Steps Up to Recognize IRAPs
While the NPRM has yet to be finalized, The AED Foundation is already positioning itself to become the SRE for future IRAPs in the construction equipment industry. It’s expected the U.S. Department of Labor will issue a final regulation toward the end of 2019.
As the leading industry voice and frequent champion of professional education and workforce development, The AED Foundation is a natural fit to become the recognizing body for IRAPs. “The existing registered apprenticeship system doesn’t provide the necessary training for careers as diesel service technicians, and The AED Foundation would fill that void,” said The AED Foundation’s Executive Vice President and COO , Jason Blake.
SREs will set standards for training, structure and curricula for IRAPs in their designated industries. The SREs will be recognized through the U.S. Department of Labor to ensure that its requirements are met, resulting in only high-quality IRAPs in a relationship not unlike the one that exists between the U.S. Department of Education and higher education accrediting bodies.
The U.S. Department of Labor would ensure that SREs have the capacity and the quality-assurance processes and procedures needed to monitor IRAPs and recognize that they are of high quality. The AED Foundation is in the early stages of determining necessary policies and procedures for IRAPs in our industry and has started looking into existing apprenticeship programs for guidance.
Crafting Future IRAPs
Although many of the details of what future IRAPs will look like have yet to be finalized, the U.S. Department of Labor’s criteria for high-quality IRAPs include paid work, work-based learning, mentorship, education and instruction, industry-recognized credentials, safety and supervision, and adhering to equal employment opportunity obligations. The AED Foundation’s Blake mentioned the standardization of curriculum as a key component of their success as a potential SRE, something The AED Foundation has already accomplished through their accredited college program.
“The final goal of the apprenticeship program would be to produce more journeymen. So, when a technician exits the apprenticeship program, they will be able to get their AED Foundation certified technician credentials, which will become the holy grail of the technician world,” said Blake. “You look at different industries – carpentry and electricians – and their journeyman cards hold the weight.”
At The AED Foundation’s July board meeting, board members reviewed plans to move forward with submitting an application to become an SRE. Blake added that the AED Foundation’s new workforce committee will be guiding the ship as they roll out the new apprenticeship program. As far as a time frame for The AED Foundation’s acceptance as an SRE by the U.S. Department of Labor, early estimates suggests sometime in mid-2020.