President Joe Biden signed an executive order this week revoking former President Donald Trump’s order providing federal funds to apprenticeship programs created by industries, calling for more government-controlled alternatives.
In 2017, Trump signed Executive Order 13801, Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs). The policy allowed “trade and industry groups, companies, non-profit organizations, unions, and joint labor-management organizations” to create their own apprenticeship programs that would help workers obtain the skills that the economy needed but that universities are not providing, or are providing at a cost that is unaffordable for many Americans.
“Registered Apprenticeships,” approved by the government, have been part of U.S. labor policy for decades. Under the Obama administration, these received more funding. But critics argued that the government-controlled model, run by the Department of Labor and with the involvement of labor unions, held back the growth of apprenticeships. The Trump order allowed industries (and unions) to develop their own programs, within regulations but independent of government control.
The Washington Post — hardly friendly to the Trump administration — reported that his new policy had bipartisan support:
Trump signed an executive order that seeks to reorient and expand ApprenticeshipUSA, a grant program that was previously championed by the Obama administration and has been supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.
The administration’s aim, White House officials say, is to give more flexibility to third parties — including businesses, trade associations and labor unions — to design programs that will offer skills training to those who are seeking jobs for which they are not yet qualified.
Under current rules, the Labor Department is too heavy-handed in crafting the programs, they argue.
But left-wing groups, and some congressional Democrats, objected to Trump’s order. The Center for American Progress complained that Trump was creating “a parallel track that lacks adequate worker protections” that could allow for “the proliferation of low-quality programs.”
Democrats eventually frustrated Trump’s new system, as Bloomberg News noted this week: “Democrats in Congress blocked funding and the implementing regulations weren’t finalized until last year.”
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the Ranking Member on the House Committee on Education and Labor, objected to Biden’s change in a statement:
“President Biden’s move to end IRAPs will kill jobs. Period. Doubling down on an inefficient, 80-year-old system that is unresponsive to workers’ needs is not a solution, it is irresponsible.
“In the last four months 131 IRAPs have been created, the vast majority of which are for nursing credentials. Why a party that claims to follow science would limit nursing credentials during a global pandemic is beyond me.
“Instead of catering to union bosses and increasing Washington’s overreach into the private sector, we should support and encourage efforts to cut the regulatory red tape that stops too many employers from filling in-demand jobs. Employer-led apprenticeship programs account for more than 80 percent of all apprenticeship programs nationwide. The success of these programs should come as no surprise, employers know best what skills their employees need to excel in the workplace.
The Biden White House described his new policy as “expanding registered apprenticeship programs,” with a view to training “diverse, local, well-trained workers who have a choice to join a union.”
The White House claimed that industry-run apprenticeships “have fewer quality standards than registered apprenticeship programs” and that they “fail to require the wage progression” that occurs under union-backed, government-run programs.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is How Not to Be a Sh!thole Country: Lessons from South Africa. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.