Department of Labor Releases Proposed Rule for Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs

By: James A. Paretti, Jr. & Michael J. Lotito

June 26, 2019

On June 24, 2019, the Department of Labor made public its long-awaited proposed rule establishing a process for DOL to advance the development of Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs).  On the same day, DOL announced that it was awarding over $183 million in grants for developing and expanding apprenticeship programs to educational institutions partnering with businesses that match funding, and an additional $100 million to expand apprenticeships and help close the “skills gap.”  The Department is expected to issue further details on IRAP requirements, and an application for entities seeking to be recognized as an accreditor of IRAPs shortly.

Under the proposed rule, trade, industry, and employer groups and associations, educational institutions, state and local government entities, non-profits, and unions could become a “Standards Recognition Entity” (SRE), which would establish standards for training, structure, and curricula for IRAPs in certain industries.  DOL would certify SREs to ensure that they meet all legal requirements, and have the capacity to monitor IRAPs to ensure that they meet certain criteria.  DOL’s criteria for “high-quality” IRAPs include paid work, work-based learning, mentorship, education and instruction, industry-recognized credentials, and safety, supervision, and EEO requirements. 

Under the proposed rule, DOL would limit its initial approval of IRAPs to those industries that currently do not have a robust apprenticeship program in place.  Under those criteria, DOL expects that it would not initially approve IRAPs in the military or construction fields.  Requirements for DOL’s “Registered Apprenticeship Programs” are unchanged by the proposal.

DOL was directed to establish IRAP guidelines pursuant to Executive Order 13801, signed on June 25, 2017.  That Executive Order also created a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, comprised of representatives of business, organized labor, trade and educational associations, and public officials.  The Task Force submitted its report to the White House on May 10, 2018.

The proposed rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on June 25, 2019, with a sixty-day period for public comment.