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Updates to Apprenticeship Regulations- Comments Due by March 18th

On January 17, 2024, the Department of Labor’s proposed updates to the apprenticeship regulations were published in the federal register, marking the beginning of the 60-day period by which the public can submit comments regarding the proposed updates. 

According to the DOL, the “National Apprenticeship System Enhancements” build upon stakeholder comments and feedback regarding how to improve the system, the expansion of registered apprenticeship into new industries, and the DOL’s desire to meet the challenges of changing demographics, technologies, and industries.  While the proposed regulations are “robust,” the DOL summarized the changes into three categories:

  • Subpart A- Registered Apprenticeship Standards: The proposed regulations update the definitions and key areas of the standards of apprenticeship, program registration, determining occupational suitability for apprenticeship training, i.e. ensuring that the occupations are skilled occupations, deregistration of programs and embedding diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility principles across the registered apprenticeship framework.

  • Subpart B- Career Technical Education: This section was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Dept. of Education and introduces a new model of registered apprenticeship: registered CTE apprenticeship.  The proposed regulations seek to establish specific standards for students enrolled in high school and community and technical colleges and wish to continue their education while in the labor market. 

  • Subpart C- State Apprenticeship Agencies and Performance: The proposed regulations also address the administration and coordination of the National Apprenticeship System through changes to requirements and processes related to data reporting requirements and the State Apprenticeship Agency governance.  These changes highlight the DOL’s emphasis on data collection, review and analysis to measure the programs’ successes and areas for improvement. 

In addition, many apprenticeship and training programs provide apprentices with state-of-the-art training and skills advancement in exchange for a promise from the apprentice that he or she will repay the program through in-kind contributions from participating employers or cash if the apprentices should work for non-participating employers.  These programs may wish to take notice of the DOL’s proposed Section 29.9(d), which would prevent program sponsors and participating employers from including the apprenticeship agreements or otherwise imposing on apprentices a non-compete provision or similar provision that would restrict an apprentice’s labor market mobility and limit competition among employers.  This section would prohibit language that would limit or restrict an apprentice’s ability to seek or accept employment with another employer prior to the completion of the program. More information is needed from the DOL as to whether proposed Section 29.9(d) would prevent apprenticeship and training programs from recouping the costs of the training provided to apprentices.

Comments regarding the proposed regulations are due on or before March 18, 2024, and will be reviewed by the DOL prior to finalizing the proposed regulations and/or making changes to the proposed regulations based on comments and feedback received from interested parties.  As of February 26, 2024, 67 comments had been submitted regarding the proposed regulations, with a number of comments requesting an extension of time to submit comments and/or questioning the DOL’s increased involvement with State Apprenticeship Agencies.

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