There is some debate as to whether the Department of Labor should exempt the construction industry from a particular provision included in a new apprenticeship program that is currently in the works. The Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program could potentially take over much of the oversight in regards to setting standards that is managed today by the DOL.
Essentially, the new provision would allow certain groups to become Standards Recognition Entities (SREs), which would then be able to set the criteria for the structure, curricula, and training in regards to apprenticeship programs. The Department of Labor would still maintain oversight.
The issue is that the construction industry already has an in-depth apprenticeship program in place. Right now, the industry is divided. On one hand, the trade unions (and supporters) are in favor of the exemption. On the other hand, some associations are arguing against it.
Here are the main arguments for either side:
The Opposition: An Exemption Would Prolong Skills Shortages
Those who oppose the construction industry’s exemption from this apprenticeship standards provision believe that it will halt advancement in the industry. Construction – like any other field – is constantly evolving with technology and other process improvements; if this industry is exempt from the provision, it will disincentivize the industry from offering additional educational opportunities, ultimately contributing to the skill shortage that is currently being faced.
Opponents of the exemption believe that the apprenticeship programs that are currently in place have failed to produce enough qualified workers to meet the industry’s demand. It is time to look for alternative options that can help raise standards, thus improving work product and project safety.
The Advocates: An Exemption Would Maintain High Standards
The Registered Apprenticeship model has been in place for nearly a century. It has helped communities across the country by helping individuals learn a trade that allows them to provide for their families. Basically, it has already proven itself to be effective.
Many in favor of the exemption believe that this new program would undermine the high standards already in place. Labor Unions, in particular, also believe that turning these regulations over to the government could result in corruption and loss of power – which are the main reasons why labor unions are in place to begin with.
The Bottom Line
Essentially, this argument comes down to whether or not the existing standards of apprenticeship are enough. The skilled labor shortage that the industry is currently facing could make you believe that more regulation is necessary. However, others may argue that recruiting and retention are the larger contributing factors. It will be interesting to see how this situation continues to play out.