The Monitor

The USDOL and the National Apprenticeship Act

Spring/Summer 2023

The United States Department of Labor’s (USDOL) Office of Apprenticeship has a longstanding history in our nation and is an important determinative factor in whether a contractor is responsible. In fact, one tool the III FFC utilizes to determine whether a contractor is responsible is including criteria in responsible bidder ordinances that a contractor bidding on a project participate in a USDOL registered and approved apprenticeship program.

Established in 1937 under the National Apprenticeship Act, also known as the Fitzgerald Act, the goal of the USDOL Office of Apprenticeship (OA) was to establish a national system of apprenticeship, designed to promote the development of skilled labor, and to protect the welfare of apprentices. The OA is tasked with administering and enforcing the provisions of the National Apprenticeship Act and has since worked to promote and expand apprenticeship programs across the nation.

For an apprenticeship program to register with and be approved by the OA, there are several steps:

  1. Develop a Program Plan: The plan must outline what industry the apprenticeship will cover including what skills will be taught and the length of the program. This includes a curriculum for classroom instruction and on-the-job training.
  2. Identify Sponsor: A sponsor is responsible for overseeing the program and ensuring OA quality standards are met. This can be an employer, a labor-management organization, a trade association, etc.
  3. Application process: The application to the OA must include the information stated above.
  4. Review and approval: The OA reviews the application, may request additional information or revision, and finally will issue a Certificate of Registration if approved.
  5. Program Implementation: Once approved, the program may be implemented, monitored, and evaluated.
  6. Maintenance and Monitoring: The OA will continue to monitor approved programs for quality and compliance standards.

One unique aspect under the National Apprenticeship Act is the ability individual states have to establish their own apprenticeship program. Specifically, states can establish State Apprenticeship Agencies (SAAs) in which they have the authority to register, monitor, and oversee apprenticeship programs within their state. SAA programs must be approved by the OA and otherwise meet minimum training, safety, and labor protection standards.

In order to establish a SAA, a state must first pass enabling legislation authorizing the creation of the agency. This includes an SAA’s organizational structure, duties and responsibilities, and funding. Once enacted, the state must receive OA approval.

The SAA plan should include the following elements:

  1. Agency Structure: The plan should describe the SAA’s organizational structure, including its leadership and staffing, and how it will interact with other State agencies and the USDOL OA.
  2. Apprenticeship Standards: The plan should describe the State’s apprenticeship standards, including training requirements, safety protocols, and labor protections.
  3. Monitoring and Enforcement: The plan should describe how the SAA will monitor and enforce apprenticeship standards, including the frequency and scope of inspections, penalties for non-compliance, and the appeals process.
  4. Funding: The plan should describe the funding sources for the SAA, including State

appropriations and federal grants. Within the III FFC’s jurisdiction, all apprenticeship programs are administered by USDOL OA. This can be advantageous in that there is uniformity among the programs in regard to registration, oversight, and support. However, Senate File 318 introduced in Iowa this session would enable Iowa to establish an SAA program. The bill contains several criteria regarding administration, responsibilities and duties, and oversight required by the OA for a SAA program, as discussed above. This may result in less consistency across the states and industries regarding the registration and oversight process. This is particularly of interest to the III FFC as our jurisdiction spans three states.

A USDOL OA registered and approved apprenticeship program has long been an objective standard of responsible training, safety, and labor protections. Whether OA administered or a SAA, the III FFC will continue to use approved programs as a tool to determine contractor responsibility.

From the Spring/Summer 2023 Issue of The Monitor.