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National Apprenticeship Act of 2020

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 20, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I claim the time in opposition to the amendment offered by the gentleman from Pennsylvania.

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Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I am the only speaker, so I will be closing when I speak.

Mr. Speaker, this amendment undermines the core premise behind the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020, which is to create 1 million more registered apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and youth apprenticeship opportunities over the next 5 years.

Registered apprenticeships are a proven earn-and-learn program. Ninety-four percent of those who complete their apprenticeships are employed upon completion, with an average salary of $70,000.

This amendment is nothing less than an attack on the successful registered apprenticeship program. It makes deep cuts in funding, which will result in sparse growth of the new registered apprenticeships, while diverting scarce funds to untested, unproven programs run by third parties. Instead, it gives the Secretary of Labor a blank check to implement unregistered apprenticeship programs that are untested and unaccountable. It does this in several ways.

First, it allows the Secretary of Labor to divert funds to unproven, untested industry-recognized apprenticeship programs, or IRAPs. Unlike registered apprenticeships, there is no evaluation of IRAPs--none.

When DOL proposed the creation of this untested program, it received over 300,000 comments in opposition. Many of those comments noted that the registered apprenticeship program provides valuable credentials which are nationally recognized. IRAPs provide neither.

Furthermore, the Trump administration's own apprenticeship expansion task force recommended the DOL only conduct a pilot program for IRAPs to see if they could be effective and accountable. Let's be clear: The administration's own task force did not embrace a full-scale rollout of this untested idea, yet this substitute amendment opens the floodgates.

Democrats do support innovation. An amendment offered by the gentleman from New Hampshire (Mr. Pappas) in the en bloc package allows the Secretary of Labor to fund innovation and apprenticeships. His amendment authorizes demonstration projects governing nontraditional sectors subject to the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships appointed by the Secretary. These projects could even help COVID-19 responses.

Second, the substitute amendment cuts funding for apprenticeship grants and cuts State apprenticeship formula grants. States have asked for funding certainty so that they can scale up their apprenticeship efforts and have been documented as the engine of success for apprenticeship growth.

The major reform in this amendment is the fact that there is a 77 percent reduction in funding, resulting in only 219 new apprenticeship opportunities rather than the 1 million new opportunities that the National Apprenticeship Act provides.

We all agree that apprenticeships are the pathway to the middle class, so why would we want to eliminate the rungs of opportunity for hundreds of thousands of potential apprentices?

Third, this amendment eliminates an interagency agreement with the Department of Education to create stronger alignment between the education system and the national apprenticeship system. My colleagues on the other side often talk about wanting to create pathways for students to pursue alternatives to 4-year degrees, but this amendment eliminates the provisions in the National Apprenticeship Act that do just that.

Some say we are creating a one-size-fits-all approach in this bill, but that isn't true either. We include new apprenticeship models, such as competency-based hybrid models, expand youth apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, and that is something that employers have consistently requested. We open the doors to apprenticeships and industries where apprenticeship programs have never been utilized.

This amendment is a step in the wrong direction. At a time when millions are losing their jobs permanently due to the pandemic, the economy is facing a deep recession, and we have other problems, the underlying bill is focused, without this amendment, on getting people back to work with the best skills possible.

So I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this amendment and pass the bill to create 1 million new, good apprenticeship opportunities.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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