President Joe Biden just signed an executive order that revokes an order made by Donald Trump in which the former president gave federal funds to apprenticeship programs that are created by industries, calling for more government-controlled alternatives.
Trump signed Executive Order 13801, Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs), back in 2017. This order made it possible for “trade and industry groups, companies, non-profit organizations, unions, and joint labor-management organizations” to create their own apprenticeship programs that would be used to help workers develop the skills that the economy needed but that universities are either not providing, or are providing at a cost that is unaffordable for many Americans.
“Registered Apprenticeships” that are approved by the government have been around for decades, and they were given more funding when Barack Obama was in office. However, many have 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. That’s why Trump designed an order that let industries (and unions) develop their own programs, within regulations but independent of government control.
Some liberals were not fans of Trump’s order, with the Center for American Progress complaining that Trump was creating “a parallel track that lacks adequate worker protections” that could allow for “the proliferation of low-quality programs.”
After Biden signed his order, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the Ranking Member on the House Committee on Education and Labor, released a blistering statement condemning it.
“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,” she said. “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,” Foxx added. “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.”
Biden defended his order, with the White House saying that “expanding registered apprenticeship programs,” with a view to training “diverse, local, well-trained workers who have a choice to join a union.” It added that the 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.