AGC responds to Labor Department's exclusion of construction industry in apprenticeship program

July 1, 2019

CEO of AGC Stephen E. Sandherr says the administration has excluded the industry at a time when construction firms report having a hard time finding qualified workers to hire

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced its establishment of a process to advance the development of industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs) in the U.S.

The DOL's announcement caught the attention of the leadership at the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America, as the proposed apprenticeship program excludes the construction industry from participation.

“At a time when the vast majority of construction firms report having a hard time finding qualified workers to hire, it is deeply troubling that the Trump administration has opted to not include the [construction] sector in its new apprenticeship proposal," Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of AGC, said in a statement. "Instead of opening new routes for many thousands of Americans to embark on high-paying construction careers, the administration has instead opted to exclude one of the largest single sectors of the economy from what is supposed to be their signature workforce initiative."

In addition to the DOL's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the apprenticeship program, the agency announced $183.8 million in awarded grant funding to support the development and expansion of apprenticeships for educational institutions partnering with companies that provide a funding match component. The DOL said it also will make available an additional $100 million for efforts to expand apprenticeships and close the skills gap. The funding will be awarded as Scaling Apprenticeship Through Sector-Based Strategies grants, which would go to private-public apprenticeship partnerships in the information technology, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare industries.

Any mention of the construction sector is, notably, missing from the DOL's announcement, but the NPRM indicates that the construction industry may be unable to participate in this new program, citing what the DOL deems to be other significant registered apprenticeship programs for construction.

“While there are multiple paths into the industry, the fact is that it remains too difficult for many firms and their partners to establish apprenticeship programs for construction workers," Sandherr said. "Barriers for apprenticeship programs often include the excessive costs incurred during the rigid and inflexible registration process. Had construction been included in this initiative, many more Americans would have had the option to master construction crafts via the proven apprenticeship model. Instead the administration is sending a clear message that contractors need not apply."

“It is troubling that the administration says that the construction industry would not 'initially' be eligible for consideration without providing any compelling rationale as to why the industry has been excluded," Sandherr added. "Furthermore, there is no enumeration of the factors that would be considered to permit construction training programs to be included in the apprenticeship expansion program in the future.”