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National Apprenticeship Act of 2020

Floor Speech

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

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Mr. WALBERG. Mr Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.R. 8294, the National Apprenticeship Act. This bill, while well intentioned, fails to deliver on the goal of strengthening our registered apprenticeship system and expanding earn-and-learn opportunities for Americans across the nation.

Our country's workforce is facing a unique crisis, and we must ensure that our apprenticeship system is up to the task to meet the needs of our evolving workforce. For instance, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted that connectivity and the digital world are an integral part of our daily lives. Developing a high-skilled workforce is critical as we seek to expand technologies like broadband and 5G to underserved areas across the country, including my district in Michigan.

Winning the global race to 5G will have a lasting economic benefit to the United States. In fact, 5G will create 3 million jobs and contribute $500 billion to the U.S. economy over the next five years. However, as wireless technology evolves, the workforce needs to evolve along with it. Unless the U.S. has a large enough and properly trained workforce, we will not be able to fully reap the economic and technological benefits of 5G.

Apprenticeships are a proven solution for meeting workforce needs, especially in wireless technologies. They provide the in-the-field experience and the necessary classroom instruction to build these advanced wireless networks. Congress and the Department of Labor should be laser focused on encouraging and incentivizing apprenticeship for 5G and advanced wireless deployment. Unfortunately, the bill we are considering would hinder the flexibility of employers to create earn- and-learn programs to teach job seekers the skills they need to build- out and deploy the 5G and wireless infrastructure America so desperately needs.

For these reasons I must oppose H.R. 8294 and urge my colleagues to work on a bipartisan solution that will empower workers and employers to create apprenticeships that are responsive to our modern economy.

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