Biden’s Apprenticeship Push Could Hurt Construction Companies

The president’s actions to bolster registered apprenticeships may mean more regulatory hoops to jump through on public projects, some experts say.

Construction Dive

April 19, 2024

2 Min Read
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President Joe Biden’s recent executive action to bolster registered apprenticeships as a pathway to high-paying jobs—including union jobs—has many implications for contractors that perform federally funded work.

The March executive action — which is not legislation — directs federal agencies to reduce barriers and create pathways into federal employment through registered apprenticeships and expands registered apprenticeships’ use through grants and contracts. It also re-establishes within the federal government labor management forums, tools used by union members and management to jointly improve their workplaces.

In addition, the Department of Labor is considering a rule change that would revise regulations for registered apprenticeships by updating worker protections and better establishing pipelines to registered apprenticeship programs.

Although the Biden administration’s efforts could spell good news for a labor-strapped industry like construction, both fans and critics of these moves also see them as a push to support unions, a key part of Biden’s platform. 

The executive order is designed to broaden the workforce, but it also favors union builders and may mean open shop contractors have to read up on new compliance, experts told Construction Dive.

Related:Bipartisan Bill Aims to Update Old Apprenticeship Law

About two-thirds of registered apprenticeships are union programs, said John Logan, professor and department chair of labor and employment studies at the San Francisco State University Lam Family College of Business.

The order aims to create more registered apprenticeship programs across a variety of industries in the federal workforce and encourages agencies to give preference to employers on publicly funded projects that hire workers who have participated in these programs. It also directs federal agencies to identify where they could include requirements or incentives for grant recipients or contractors to use workers who participate in registered apprenticeships.

Since Biden took office, his administration has invested more than $440 million to expand the capacity of the registered apprenticeship system, which has supported the training of more than 1 million apprentices across the country, per the executive order’s announcement.

To read the rest of the story from our sister publication, Construction Dive, click here.

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