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National Apprenticeship Act of 2020

Floor Speech

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


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Mr. SMUCKER. Mr. Speaker, since March, America's workers have faced unprecedented volatility and uncertainty. Even before that, even before the pandemic when unemployment rates were at record lows, there was still a significant skills gap to close.

We have a responsibility here in Congress to create real solutions for Americans, pathways and programs that will jump-start and enhance their careers and allow them to provide for themselves and for their families.

Knowing all this, I am dismayed that we would squander such an opportunity as we have today to help Americans in need. We have a real opportunity with this bill. There is strong bipartisan support for apprenticeships in this body, and Republicans and Democrats both are claiming they want to increase the number of apprenticeships available in this country and expand apprenticeships into new industries.

This amendment would fix that. This amendment makes necessary improvements to achieve the goals of modernization and reinvigoration of the national apprenticeship system, changes that will increase opportunities for workers and help bolster the Nation's economic recovery.

Unlike the many hollow claims put forward by my colleagues about their proposal, this amendment expands the number of apprenticeship opportunities in the registered model rather than permanently limiting them by locking in the problems of a decade's-old system. My amendment provides program sponsors with the necessary resources and freedom to effectively instruct apprentices on the job.

While the underlying legislation piles on requirements that obstruct first-time sponsors and small businesses from participating, this substitute makes room for them so that the registered apprenticeship program is ripe with opportunities for prospective apprentices from a variety of employers. This amendment allows for innovation beyond the traditional registered system, as well, to ensure that apprenticeship offerings will be able to grow and change as quickly as our employment market demands.

Work-based learning is one of the most promising paths forward for workers seeking to find or enhance their careers. Such opportunities meet workers where they are, place them in dynamic learning environments, and develop their skills and competencies.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment that would transform the registered apprenticeship program into a modern program generating opportunities for American workers without the red tape and roadblocks found in the underlying bill.

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Mr. SMUCKER. Foxx), the ranking member of the committee.

Ms. FOXX of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Pennsylvania for his work on the committee, which has been excellent, and for his work on this bill and this amendment, in particular.

Mr. Speaker, the National Apprenticeship Act has remained untouched for the last 80 years, until today. The legislation we put forward now should modernize the registered apprenticeship system and create forward-thinking solutions for the American workforce.

This amendment makes real reforms to the registered apprenticeship system, sparks innovation, expands opportunities, and encourages alternate pathways for apprentices and employers.

Who knows better what the workforce needs than employers?

Washington bureaucrats have run the one-size-fits-all system for decades, and far too many businesses still choose not to participate because it simply isn't workable for them. This means job opportunities are left on the table because the current system isn't built for success, opportunities we cannot afford to close the door on if our workforce is going to recover from the damage done by the pandemic.

If we want the registered apprenticeship system to adapt to the ever- changing needs of the economy and workforce, we need to provide employers a seat at the table in making a model that actually addresses the skills gap.

This amendment eliminates the barriers that have developed over time in the current system, creates parity between union and nonunion- sponsored programs, and makes it easier for everyone to participate, particularly the small businesses and sponsors who have been shut out before.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.
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Mr. SMUCKER. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

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