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National Apprenticeship Act of 2020

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 19, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. MOORE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 8294, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020.

The programs being addressed in this bill support on the job training, mentoring, and other assistance to help individuals gain employment and build careers in high paying and/or high skilled occupations. Registered Apprenticeships are our nation's most successful federal workforce training program. According to the DOL, 94 percent apprentices are employed after completing a Registered Apprenticeship and earn an average starting wage of $70,000. That success is to be applauded.

Yet, this powerful tool can be improved. Just consider these two facts: Registered Apprenticeships only account for 0.3 percent of our workforce and nearly two-thirds of active apprentices are employed in just one industry, construction. It's long past time we bring these federal efforts into the 21st Century and expanding access to apprenticeship opportunities is now especially important as we work to build back our economy from the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key provisions to me in this bill are the calls to strengthen equity and promote equal opportunity to participate in youth apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships, and apprenticeships, especially for nontraditional apprenticeship populations. Who are they? These are individuals who have traditionally faced barriers to accessing these opportunities, including low-income individuals, those with disabilities, foster youth and former foster youth, and the formerly incarcerated, among others.

I don't have to tell you that low-income workers frequently face barriers . . . as do those who were previously or recently incarcerated. But we might remind ourselves ``[a] history of incarceration does not disqualify a person's skills, initiative, or humanity.'' Thanks to Chairman Scott and the sponsor of this legislation, Chairwoman Susan Davis, among others for their efforts that have resulted in the legislation before us today.

It recognizes that we need to keep working to ensure equal opportunity for all to participate in these programs. Pre- apprenticeships and apprenticeships are key gateways to potentially good paying careers. It's critical that we work to ensure that populations that have barriers to entry into these programs and are underrepresented. Inclusive workforce development practices will help us achieve a more diverse workforce that leverages each individual's talents, skills and abilities to determine their success, rather than the barriers they may face.

My amendment, which is included in this en bloc, builds on the base bill to ensure we do not forget populations that have traditionally been underrepresented in these programs. This includes requiring regular reviews by the federal government of participation by nontraditional populations in these programs and assessing how these programs increase participation of these populations, especially in occupations where we know that their involvement is underrepresented. My amendment would also ensure that federal coordination among a host of programs serving low-income individuals helps to promote their participation in the efforts supported by this bill.

It is estimated that the efforts in this bill could create nearly 1 million new apprenticeship opportunities in addition to expected growth in the apprenticeship system. But it's not enough just to increase the number of opportunities. We must expand access to the opportunities.

Truly expanding access to these opportunities for all, including women, minorities, and other underrepresented and nontraditional populations, will benefit not only the workers who we connect to stable, good-paying jobs but also their communities.

I urge my colleagues to support this en bloc and the underlying bill.

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