WASHINGTON, DC — It would take 12 years for federal and state government-registered apprenticeship programs to educate the more than half a million workers the construction industry needs to hire in 2023, 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 government-registered apprenticeship system yielded just 45,000 completers of four-to-five-year apprenticeship programs in 2022.
“Construction of American infrastructure, clean energy and manufacturing funded in part by recent robust government investments in federal, state, local and private projects will be delayed, subject to added costs and/or not built at all unless lawmakers champion all-of-the-above workforce development policies for the construction industry,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs.
“Unfortunately, the Biden administration and some in Congress are pushing funding and policies exclusively promoting the government-registered apprenticeship system to build the construction workforce. This benefits special interests because 75% of all apprentices enrolled in construction industry GRAPs are affiliated with union programs. Yet, the government’s own data demonstrates that the restrictive GRAP system is not meeting the industry’s need for skilled labor and therefore cannot be the only solution supported by government to meet market demand and develop a diverse and inclusive workforce.”
Undermining its Own Agenda
For example, the 2023 Inflation Reduction Act provides $270 billion in tax credits to private developers of clean energy construction projects, but in order to unlock the full 30% value of tax credits, they are required to ensure that 15% of all labor hours on an eligible construction project are performed by government-registered apprentices. Clean energy stakeholders are concerned these requirements will be difficult to meet due to government red tape, making it extremely time-consuming or even impossible to have new GRAPs approved in certain states so the number of apprentices enrolled increases. A lack of apprentices and GRAP capacity, which currently serves 250,000 apprentices, will ultimately increase costs and delay the construction of new projects, undermining the Biden administration’s clean energy agenda.
The DOL is conducting a May 5 listening session on its plans to rewrite regulations for the National Apprenticeship System, which could result in new restrictive policies favoring special interests at the expense of the broader construction industry.
In addition, the ABC-opposed National Apprenticeship Act introduced in Congress on April 25 further entrenches the rigid registered system, failing to address critical workforce needs of our nation’s construction industry and substantially restricting apprenticeship opportunities currently serving thousands of contractors.
“Government-registered apprenticeship programs are one of many solutions that are part of ABC’s all-of-the-above solution to workforce development,” 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 300 federal and state GRAPs across over 20 different occupations, in order to develop a safe, skilled and productive workforce. In addition, ABC member companies administer GRAPs independent of ABC’s network and invested an estimated $1.6 billion in construction industry workforce development in 2021.”
In the 118th Congress, ABC supports the Training America’s Workforce Act (S. 1213), the Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act (H.R. 1477/S. 722) and the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students Act (H.R. 793/S. 161).
Visit abc.org/workforce to learn more about the work ABC is doing to develop the nation's skilled workforce.