August 26, 2019
Office of Apprenticeship
U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20210
Submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov
Re: Apprenticeship Programs, Labor Standards for Registration, Amendment of Regulations, 84 Fed. Reg. 122 (June 25, 2019)
To Whom It May Concern:
The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters (“CRCC”) submits the following comments concerning the proposed amendment to 29 C.F.R. § 29 concerning Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (“IRAP’s”).
The proposed rule states that the Department of Labor proposes to only recognize Standards Recognition Entities (“SRE’”) that seek to recognize Industry Programs in sectors without significant registered apprenticeship opportunities and that the Department expects to identify the construction industry as a sector where registered apprenticeship opportunities are already significant. Accordingly, the Department would not, at least initially, accept applications
from SRE’s seeking to recognize apprenticeship programs in the construction industry.
The CRCC strongly recommends that the proscription against SRE’s seeking to recognize IRAP’s in the construction industry be made permanent.
Additionally, for the reasons set forth below, the CRCC strongly opposes the establishment of IRAP’s in industrial sectors that are part of the CRCC’s longstanding and successful Apprenticeship and Training Program. IRAP’s in the construction industry and industrial sector would create an unnecessary and inferior second tier of training programs that will not be held to the same rigorous standards as the existing DOL Registered Apprenticeship programs. Additionally, IRAP’s create an unnecessary cost to taxpayers and apprentices that is not present in the existing DOL Registered Apprenticeship Programs.
The purpose of IRAP’s are to provide a structure for emerging sectors of the economy that lack the uniform training necessary to create a constant supply of skilled labor. Construction industry apprenticeship programs currently account for the vast majority of all active apprentices in the United States. In the 2018 Fiscal Year, 68 percent of the 244,609 active apprentices in the United States were enrolled in construction industry apprenticeship programs registered with the DOL.
The CRCC’s Apprentice and Training Programs, as well as similar apprenticeship programs, are certified by the DOL with established and uniform curriculums that comply with current state and local building codes. Construction industry apprenticeship programs are governed by DOL standards that are not required of IRAP’s. For example, 29 C.F.R. §29.5 requires a minimum of 2,000 hours of structured on the job training and a minimum of 144 hours each year of organized technical instruction. The CRCC’s Apprentice and Training Program requires apprentices to complete nearly 6,000 hours of combined on-the-job training and classroom work in order to obtain the nationally recognized Apprenticeship Certificate. Currently there is no requirement that a certification from an IRAP would be recognized nationally.
Our apprentice program also provides skill advancement training in industrial markets which include mill cabinet, building component, modular housing production, manufacturing and fabrication. This uniform, structured and formal training process ensures safety both in the manufacturing process and with the installation, and ultimate use of finished products. Relying upon certified DOL training programs provides not only safety for those working in industrial settings but also to those end users and consumers.
Certified apprentice programs provide a diverse and broad educational experience for its participants in many disciplines which provides greater employment opportunities for their participants in many industries. Conversely, IRAP’s would emphasize the limited scope of the work being performed by individual employers within its industrial settings leaving its participant/employees with a diminished education and limited skills necessary to work for successor employers.
The CRCC’s Apprentice and Training Fund, which is jointly administered by labor and management trustees, currently operates eight (8) state-of-the art, stand-alone training facilities in Illinois and Iowa. The CRCC’s Apprentice and Training Program, like similarly situated programs, is self-sustaining and does not rely upon taxpayers’ money to operate. Instead, theses certified training programs are funded through contributions by signatory employers with no public tax burden. IRAP’s on the other hand will be funded through DOL grants and taxpayer dollars.
Additionally, CRCC’s apprentices earn 40 percent of a journeyman carpenter’s hourly wage rate during their first year and up to 80 percent of a journeyman’s wage rate during their fourth and final year of apprenticeship. The proposed rule sets a much lower standard requiring that an apprentice participating in an IRAP be paid Federal, State or local minimum wage.
The promotion of individual IRAP’s will eliminate the benefits of uniform training curriculums that provide safety to workers and consumers. More importantly, these individual and isolated programs lack any significant level of government oversight to ensure compliance. DOL registered apprenticeship programs, unlike the proposed IRAP’s, remain accountable under government mandated filings and document retention policies which promote compliance with government mandated rules and regulations to protect federal and state public interests.
High amongst those policies is the promotion of diversity in registered apprenticeship programs. Currently, 47.1 percent of the CRCC’s 2,425 apprentices are minorities and 6.1 percent are veterans. Certified apprentice programs promote diversity through compliance with government mandated affirmative action requirements. These requirements ensure equal opportunities for minority, female, veterans and other disadvantaged members of our communities.
Allowing IRAP’s in the construction industry and industrial sectors will severely erode the standards by which apprentices are trained, coming at a significant cost to the industry. Instead, the public is better served by promoting existing DOL registered apprenticeship programs and supporting the expansion of these programs into areas where skill advancement training programs are needed.
Given that there are currently significant apprenticeship opportunities in the construction industry and industrial sectors, and that the current programs are highly functional and maintain standards above those required by the DOL, the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters recommends that proscription against SRE’s recognizing IRAP’s in the construction industry and industrial sectors be made permanent.