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Proposed DOL Rule Enhances Regulations for Registered Apprenticeships

Proposed DOL Rule Enhances Regulations for Registered Apprenticeships

Especially in the construction and skilled trades sectors, HR professionals at many small businesses (SMBs) rely on apprenticeships to funnel in needed workforce talent. Apprenticeship TN defines an apprenticeship as a “work-based learning model where apprentices have supervised on-the-job training, along with job-related education, all while earning.” 

The Federal Register praises registered apprenticeships as “an affordable pathway to a high-quality, high-paying career.” 

In December of 2023, the Department of Labor (DOL), which registers and validates apprenticeships, proposed a rule to modernize regulations for registered apprenticeships. 



What Is the DOL's Proposed Rule for Registered Apprenticeships? 

Among other things, the DOL’s proposed rule would modernize registered apprenticeship regulations by adding the following enhancements: 

  • Strengthening of labor standards
  • Strengthening of worker protections by making skills and training more portable, enhancing alignment with postsecondary education and providing better performance data 
  • Improving economic mobility for program participants
  • Encouraging apprenticeship pathways to improve quality, accountability, objectivity, transparency, and program outcomes
  • Mitigating barriers and facilitating equal access and greater success for historically underserved communities (women, young people, people of color, etc.)
  • More clearly establishing critical pipelines to registered apprenticeship programs, such as registered career and technical education (CTE) apprenticeships
  • Creating a student-centered model of Registered Apprenticeship designed to make it more seamless for full-time students to enroll in a Registered Apprenticeship
  • Codifying the Office of Apprenticeship’s role for national leadership, promotion and standards
  • Creating a framework that combines the key attributes of the competency and time-based approaches to training
  • Promoting coherent and quality training models across all programs

Additional administrative tasks of the proposed rule include: 

  • Mandatory disclosures of details about the operation, performance, and advancement of the training program 
  • Implementation of a time-based model for apprenticeship completion
  • More stringent training requirements for apprenticeships

Overall, the rule aims to provide strong worker protections, improve employer experiences and provide greater clarity and objectivity on the system as a whole. 

As Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su shared, “Equity and job quality have marked the most successful Registered Apprenticeship programs for workers and employers alike. This proposed rule codifies the Department of Labor’s strong commitment to these principles.” 

Not everyone sees it that way, however. The House Committee on Small Business wrote to the DOL:

“Discouraging participation in a program designed to bolster the American workforce is counterproductive. Especially given the labor shortage of skilled workers nationwide– nearly 90 percent of small business owners with job openings are struggling to find qualified candidates.” 

The committee and other lawmakers view the rule’s administrative requirements as burdensome and limiting for SMBs who may not have the resources to structure training programs the same way larger businesses would. They claim that the stringent requirements are difficult for SMBs to fulfill and would ultimately disincentivize SMBs from participating in Registered Apprenticeship Programs. 

The Federal Register invites interested persons to submit written comments and share their thoughts on the proposed rule on or before March 18, 2024.


Additional Resources

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