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ABC: Government-Registered Apprenticeship Programs Not Keeping Up With Construction Industry Needs

Feb. 23, 2024
ABC is soliciting feedback from members and industry leaders to recommend policy solutions to increase success in apprenticeship programs.

At current rates of participation and completion, federal and state government-registered apprenticeship programs will fail to meet the construction industry’s short- and long-term skilled workforce needs, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of recently released U.S. Department of Labor data.

ABC estimates that the construction industry’s federal and state GRAPs had about 250,000 apprentice participants and yielded just 40,000 to 45,000 completers in fiscal year 2023.

“It is no secret that America’s government-registered apprenticeship system isn’t keeping up with construction industry demand for skilled craft professionals, despite dedicated efforts by many stakeholders to create new programs, grow capacity and attract new apprentices,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC vice president of regulatory, labor, and state affairs. “Unfortunately, a controversial Biden administration proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Labor overhauling regulations for all government-registered apprenticeship program participants, providers, and state regulators is likely to exacerbate the industry’s skilled labor shortage.”

On Jan. 31, ABC projected the construction industry workforce shortage of craft and noncraft labor to top half a million in 2024

“The Biden administration’s proposal will discourage employer participation in the GRAP system by needlessly adding more uncertainty and costs in the form of new recordkeeping and reporting requirements, while also eliminating flexible competency-based approaches to workforce development that attract apprentices and employers into the system,” said Brubeck. “As currently written, the lengthy Biden proposal threatens to undermine significant investments recently made by taxpayers in infrastructure, clean energy and manufacturing projects procured by government and private developers.”

ABC plans to submit comments on the Biden DOL’s proposal by its March 18 deadline, and is soliciting feedback from ABC members and industry leaders to recommend policy solutions that would increase apprentice, employer, and provider participation and capacity in the GRAP system.

“ABC champions government-registered apprenticeships as part of a diverse, all-of-the-above solution to workforce development needs that only together can solve the construction industry’s demand for skilled craft professionals, as well as engineers, estimators, and project managers,” said Brubeck. “ABC’s 68 chapters are educating craft, safety, and management professionals using innovative and flexible learning models like just-in-time task training, competency-based progression and work-based learning, in addition to more than 450 federal and state GRAPs in more than 20 different occupations across America, in order to develop a safe, skilled, and productive workforce. ABC members invested an estimated $1.5 billion in construction industry workforce development to upskill 1.3 million course attendees in 2022, including hundreds of GRAPs administered independently by ABC member companies.”

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the construction industry had 8.137 million craft and noncraft employees as of January 2024, and experienced an unemployment rate between 3.5% and 4.8% during peak construction months in 2023.

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