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Unpacking the USDOL's Proposed Apprenticeship Enhancements

Unpacking the USDOL's Proposed Apprenticeship Enhancements

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has initiated a bold step toward modernizing the National Apprenticeship System with a newly proposed rule that promises to reshape the landscape of apprenticeships nationwide. The need for enhancements in the registered apprenticeship system is driven by the program's growth, diversification, and underutilized potential as a workforce development solution. While the system has been the "gold standard" in the construction and skilled trades for decades, it's also becoming a valuable option across new and emerging industries. This is evidenced by the significant increase in active apprentices—from 420,140 in 2009 to 599,246 in 2022—and the number of new programs initiated annually.

Despite the setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a 12-percent drop in new apprentices between FY 2019 and 2020, the program demonstrated resilience with a 9-percent rebound in new apprentices in FY21. This recovery highlights the system's robustness and capacity to adapt during crises.

However, the apprenticeship program remains underutilized in the U.S., especially when compared to other countries where apprentices form a larger proportion of the workforce. This gap suggests a significant opportunity to expand the scope and impact of apprenticeships nationally.

To capitalize on this opportunity and encourage wider adoption, the DOL aims to enhance the apprenticeship system through a set of strategic goals. These include strengthening worker protections, improving program quality, increasing accessibility, revising state governance, and promoting the system's benefits more vigorously. By doing so, the DOL seeks to position the registered apprenticeship as a cornerstone of workforce development, not only within traditional sectors but also across the entire spectrum of the American economy.

These changes could have dramatic implications for Registered Apprenticeship, so we encourage RAP stakeholders to educate themselves on the proposed rule and submit their comments and feedback to the DOL. The commentary period is open until March 18, 2024. In this article, we'll break down the essential components of the proposed rule with the goal of helping program leadership and other stakeholders understand the potential changes. You can read the entire 200-page proposed rule and submit a formal comment at

Summary of Goals

The Department of Labor (DOL), in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education and other stakeholders, has outlined a series of goals with the proposed rule to overhaul the National Apprenticeship System in line with contemporary needs and challenges. We've distilled their ambitious list into five primary goals.

  1. Strengthen Worker Protections and Promote Equity: This goal prioritizes creating safe and equitable working conditions for apprentices, focusing on those from historically marginalized communities. Suggested improvements include modernizing labor standards and enhancing oversight through the Office of Apprenticeship.
  2. Enhance Program Quality and Modernize the System: By raising the bar on apprenticeship quality and aligning with educational programs such as CTE, the DOL ensures that apprentices receive superior training and relevant education. This includes updating program standards to keep pace with economic and technological shifts.
  3. Increase Accessibility and Expand Apprenticeship Access: Efforts to make apprenticeship programs more inclusive and accessible extend to revising state governance and data frameworks. Strategic plans designed to diversify apprenticeships will be supported by improved data collection on sponsor and apprentice demographics, outcomes, and system-level achievements.
  4. Revise State Governance and Enhance Oversight: States will be encouraged to develop clear strategic visions and enhance partnerships, propelling innovation within the apprenticeship system. These changes aim to create a more responsive and accountable national framework that supports industry needs and reflects diverse workforce demands.
  5. Promote Apprenticeships and Expand into New Industries: The promotion of apprenticeship values looks to expand these opportunities across new industries. This expansion is complemented by the integration of a new CTE apprenticeship model that offers pathways for students to engage in on-the-job learning while earning credentials, influenced by Perkins-funded education programs.

The DOL's comprehensive approach seeks to foster a robust apprenticeship ecosystem that enhances transparency, accountability, and collaboration among all stakeholders, preparing a skilled workforce ready to meet the challenges of today's and tomorrow's economies.

Outline of Key Proposed Changes

These are divided into three sections for ease of comprehension. This is not an exhaustive list.

RA Standards

Apprenticeship Training Model (29.8(a)(4)): Establishing a minimum of 2,000 hours of on-the-job training supplemented by at least 144 hours of related instruction to ensure a comprehensive training experience leading to proficiency in the occupation.

Wages and Benefits Reporting (29.8(a)(17)): Requiring transparent reporting of wages and benefits, with progressively increasing wages that reflect new competencies, ensuring that the final wage is no less than 75% of the typical journeyworker wage for the occupation.

Transparency of Costs and Advanced Standing (29.8(a)(18) & 29.8(a)(20)): Mandating disclosure of any unreimbursed costs for apprentices and clearly outlining the process for granting advanced standing or acceleration in the program, contributing to financial and educational transparency.

Non-Compete and Non-Disclosure Prohibitions (§ 29.9): This ensures that apprentices can move freely within the labor market after their training, enhancing their ability to utilize their skills in various employment opportunities without being hindered by restrictive legal agreements.

Qualifications of Trainers (§ 29.12): By setting standards for trainer qualifications, the regulations aim to guarantee the quality of training provided to apprentices, which is essential for maintaining the overall integrity and effectiveness of apprenticeship programs.

Program Review and Compliance (§ 29.19): The consolidation of program review components and establishment of compliance action plans for programs with deficiencies provides a clear framework for maintaining high standards in registered apprenticeship programs and ensures accountability and continuous improvement.

Registered CTE Apprenticeship

The Registered Career and Technical Education (CTE) Apprenticeship is a new apprenticeship model designed to integrate formal apprenticeship experiences with educational pathways at various levels, including high school, community colleges, and universities. This model acknowledges the importance of credit-bearing training programs in facilitating students' educational advancement and professional growth. By offering a foundational registered apprenticeship route in key industries, it aims to provide a diverse generation of apprentices with valuable skills and opportunities in critical sectors.

The Registered CTE Apprenticeship has several key components:

  1. Industry-Set Standards (ISFs): These define the structure for on-the-job training, ensuring that the apprenticeship meets industry requirements.
  2. Minimum On-the-Job Training Hours: At least 900 hours of paid training is required, providing substantial hands-on experience.
  3. State-Approved Curriculum: The related instruction component uses curriculum from state-approved CTE programs to avoid repetitive coursework.
  4. Minimum CTE Instruction Hours: There is a requirement for at least 540 hours of related CTE instruction, ensuring a robust educational component.
  5. Postsecondary Credit: A minimum of 12 postsecondary credit hours are awarded, leading toward a recognized credential and possibly granting advanced standing in future apprenticeship programs.
  6. Educational and Employment Pathways: Standards must facilitate CTE apprentices' enrollment in higher education, entrance into the workforce, or both.

SAAs and Performance

Enhanced Data Reporting (§ 29.25): Emphasizes the importance of SAAs collecting detailed and accurate data on apprentices and apprenticeships, ensuring alignment with federal reporting requirements and enabling more informed policy decisions based on comprehensive metrics.

Clarification of Roles and Reciprocity (§ 29.26): Provides clear guidance on the responsibilities of SAAs and establishes a standardized process for the reciprocal recognition of registered apprenticeship programs across state boundaries, facilitating a more unified national apprenticeship landscape.

State Planning and Agency Recognition (§ 29.27): Requires SAAs to submit a comprehensive State Apprenticeship Plan every four years, aligning with other workforce development initiatives. This plan is pivotal for obtaining initial and continued recognition, thereby enhancing the overall quality and effectiveness of the apprenticeship system.

myOneFlow is Your Trusted Partner in Apprenticeship

Federal regulations ensure that apprenticeship programs provide high-quality career training and protect workers. However, the paperwork, tracking, and red tape can be daunting for program sponsors, employers, and participants. myOneFlow is an apprenticeship management software that does the heavy lifting for your program so you can focus on delivering exceptional training and maximizing your community impact. We ensure our software is always up-to-date with the latest reporting requirements and regulations so that, when changes happen, your program doesn't risk noncompliance. Get out of spreadsheets and scale your program - chat with an apprenticeship specialist today to get started.


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