- A bill proposed in the U.S. Senate May 27 would create an "apprenticeship college consortium" and oblige the secretary of labor and secretary of education to enter an interagency agreement to promote apprenticeship.
- The consortium would consist of postsecondary educational institutions, instruction providers, sponsors, intermediaries and employers. Participants would be required to have agreements on establishing credit transfers with apprenticeship program sponsors; awarding academic credit to apprentices; and supporting electronic transcripts for apprenticeship programs.
- The Department of Labor and the Department of Education also would be required to provide technical assistance on eligible financial aid as well as information to consortium participants, including a list of participating programs and guidelines on how to develop a program. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The proposal arrived just months after a Trump administration overhaul to the nation's apprenticeship system was rescinded by President Joe Biden in a February executive order. Under the now-rescinded final rule, DOL would have been able to recognize entities that could work with employers and other parties to create, recognize and monitor apprenticeship programs.
Instead, the Biden administration has so far focused on adding funding for the federal government's existing apprenticeship framework. DOL announced in March the availability of $87.5 million in federal grants to expand registered apprenticeships, including $40 million that would be set aside for states that implemented diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within their programs.
The consortium proposal drew negative reactions from some in the workforce development community. "This may complicate the creation of new apprenticeships," Nick Wyman, president and CEO of the Institute for Workplace Skills & Innovation America, told HR Dive in an email. "We would rather see a provision that helps employers on the front line."
Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and other cabinet members also have spoken publicly about expanding apprenticeship programs. In May, Walsh and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo spoke about the $285 million in funding for apprenticeships that would be included in a Congressional spending proposal, the Associated Press reported. That bill, the INVEST in America Act, passed the House of Representatives Friday.
U.S. apprenticeship programs were forced to find workarounds during a pandemic that shut down many in-person learning experiences, sources told HR Dive last year. Among other solutions, programs turned to virtual learning and shifting apprentices' work toward manufacturing personal protective equipment.
In recent years, employers have expanded programs to include a more diverse set of occupations, including HR. The Society for Human Resource Management said in March that its SHRM Foundation had entered an agreement with manufacturer Hypertherm to make the company the first employer participant in the foundation's HR apprenticeship program.