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National Apprenticeship Act of 2020

Floor Speech

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


Mr. HORSFORD. Mr. Speaker, I thank Chairman Scott from Virginia for his kind words and leadership, and I want to commend Congresswoman Susan Davis from California for leading on this important issue.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 8294, the National Apprenticeship Act, and to urge my colleagues to support my amendment, which would ensure equity and fairness in our national apprenticeship system.

Specifically, my amendment would support the recruitment, retention, and completion of nontraditional apprenticeship populations, including women, people of color, and individuals with barriers to employment.

Now more than ever, in response to the economic challenges posed by COVID-19, people need access to opportunities in apprenticeships. This is especially true for my constituents throughout Nevada, which has been one of the hardest hit economic regions in the country.

My amendment would ensure that women like Evelyn Pacheco, who is the founder and president of Nevada Women in Trades, continue to have opportunities to provide apprenticeships to women of color throughout southern Nevada. The opportunities presented by women like Evelyn matter because 94 percent of apprentices who complete an apprenticeship program retain employment with an average annual salary of $70,000.

Mr. Speaker, it is no secret that this pandemic has disproportionately impacted workers of color, particularly women of color, who have shouldered the greatest job losses due to their concentration in low-wage service industries that have been hardest hit by the economic downturn.

That is why we must do everything in our power to ensure that we have equity and fairness in our national apprenticeship system so that every person can have access and support for desperately needed job training.

Mr. Speaker, I encourage my colleagues to vote in favor of my amendment, and I support the passage of H.R. 8294.

Mr. Speaker, I include in the Congressional Record a letter from the National Urban League supporting my amendment and the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020. National Urban League, November 19, 2020.

Dear Representative: On behalf of the National Urban League and its 90 affiliates located in 36 states and the District of Columbia, I urge you to vote ``Yes'' on the National Registered Apprenticeship Act (NAA) and associated equity amendments, including those put forth by Representatives Brown, Horsford, Moore, Ryan/Rice and Smith/Langevin.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered businesses all across America, leaving millions of workers unemployed and devasting our national economy. Research shows that Black and Latino workers are more likely to be working in hard-hit industries that may never bounce back. The NAA represents an important step towards stemming that job loss by creating one million new apprenticeship opportunities over the next five years, in addition to the opportunities that are already being created. These apprenticeships result in substantially higher earnings compared to nonparticipants. By some accounts, the average starting salary of an apprentice is $70,000, a family- sustaining middle-class income.

Yet, more work is needed to ensure equitable access to apprenticeship opportunities to nontraditional populations, including people of color and women, as apprenticeship programs are often less diverse than the occupations they ultimately serve. According to the Department of Labor's (DOL) Equal Employment Opportunity study, African Americans represented only 10% of registered apprentices and are the most underpaid compared to other ethnic groups. Across 25 states in which DOL tracks registered apprenticeships, the data show the opportunities are dominated by white men.

The National Urban League has worked to advance economic opportunity for African Americans and other underserved communities for more than 110 years. Our job training programs target workers with multiple barriers to employment to help them secure full-time jobs and career advancement opportunities. Through DOL's Equity in Apprenticeship program, the National Urban League and eleven affiliates have increased opportunities in nontraditional fields through pre- apprenticeship and registered apprenticeships to more than 1,200 African American and other nontraditional populations.

The National Urban League urges you to support the National Registered Apprenticeship Act and accompanying equity amendments to ensure nontraditional populations have access to the support they need to thrive and businesses have the skilled workforce they need to succeed in this uncertain economy. Sincerely, Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League.

Ms. FOXX of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, Representative Stefanik's amendment is a valuable change that would make it easier for programs of shorter length to be approved specifically in fields where apprenticeships have not traditionally seen growth or expansion.

While most of the other amendments in this en bloc are unobjectionable, I do want to highlight three amendments where I have concerns.

The amendment offered by Representatives Beyer and Pressley is mostly unobjectionable. We certainly share the majority's intent in ensuring access to apprenticeships for people with disabilities. However, it also includes a provision that would actually hold apprenticeship program sponsors to a higher standard than the standard to which section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 currently holds Federal agencies, which are the target of that particular provision.

While this was likely well intentioned, the underlying bill already prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and requires program sponsors to provide accommodations for individuals with disabilities, so holding small business and other employers who are seeking to expand opportunities for individuals with disabilities to a higher standard than we hold ourselves in the Federal Government is a guaranteed way to ensure fewer apprenticeship opportunities rather than more.

Another amendment concealed within the en bloc is offered by Representative Moore, which will lead to excessive paperwork and little real outcomes for low-income individuals or individuals with barriers to employment.

Finally, the amendment offered by Representative Horsford claims to ensure equity and opportunity in the apprenticeship system. In reality, I am afraid it may cause confusion at best. The amendment would add new criteria to the definition of ``national qualified intermediaries,'' requiring them to support the increased participation of nontraditional apprenticeship populations and nontraditional apprenticeship industries or occupations.

Even if they wanted to, some national qualified intermediaries may not be in a position to do this, either because of their location or the nature of their program.

If there is an opportunity in the new Congress to resume bipartisan conversations on reauthorization of the National Apprenticeship Act, I welcome the chance to discuss what the intent is here and to seek out common ground. In fact, I hope the new Congress brings about true bipartisan work from my colleagues.

While these three specific amendments cause me concern, on balance, this en bloc consideration is worthy of support even if it won't ultimately redeem the underlying bill.