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The United States is currently experiencing a skills gap. An apprenticeship program is a solution to the problem. Apprenticeship is a high quality career program that is industry-driven and helps the employer to prepare their future workforce. Apprentices train on-the-job while earning wages and taking educational courses. The benefits of an apprenticeship to the employer include a diverse and skilled workforce, improved productivity, and reduced turnover.

In 2017, an executive order was signed by the president to expand apprenticeships in America. An Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program framework was developed as a parallel system to our current Registered Apprenticeship Program model, which serves employers and employees in the construction industry. The new initiative is intended to serve employers and employees in all other industries.

This first step in the initiative is to create Standard Recognition Entities (SREs). These entities are responsible for establishing competency-based standards, through a consensus-based process. According to the Office of Apprenticeship, entities that are eligible to apply include but are not limited to:

  • Trade, industry, and employer groups or associations;
  • Corporations and other organized entities;
  • Educational institutions, such as universities or community colleges;
  • State and local government agencies or entities;
  • Non-profit organizations;
  • Unions;
  • Joint labor-management organizations;
  • Certification and accreditation bodies or entities for a profession or industry;
  • A consortium or partnership of entities such as those above.

In addition to establishing standards, SREs will also approve Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs). Once a program is approved, the SRE will review and validate that they meet high-quality criteria on an annual basis.

On May 11, 2020, the US Office of Apprenticeship began accepting applications for those interested in becoming an SRE. For more information go to Standard-Recognized Entity. The initial group of applicants will be notified in early Fall, 2020. IRAPs will be approved following the implementation of SREs. More information on the timeline will follow on www.apprenticeship.gov.

There are currently two H-1B federal grant programs supporting the scaling apprenticeship initiative. The Scaling Apprenticeship through Sector-Based Strategies grant program totaling $184 million was awarded to 23 recipients in June 2019.  The US Department of Labor announced the Closing the Skills Gap grant recipients in February 2020. Nearly $100 Million in grants were awarded to 28 public-private apprenticeship partnerships available to support the creation of SREs. Other funding sources used by states to support apprenticeship initiatives include tax credits and tuition support.