The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, November 01, 2019

In light of IRAP mess, National Apprenticeship Week pushed by union trades

By The Building Tradesman



By Jim Embrescia
Cleveland Labor Citizen
  
The union construction industry will again celebrate National Apprenticeship Week this month, but has added a new element to the annual activity.

The fifth annual commemoration will take place from Nov. 11-17, and North Americas Building Trades Unions (NABTU) wants its member unions and workers to promote a slightly different message this year.

The week was created to raise awareness of a wide variety of apprenticeship opportunities – including numerous initiatives beyond the construction industry – that offer an alternative to seeking a college degree. 

Each year, NABTU and its signatory contractors invest more than $1.53 billion in a nationwide network of over 20,000 instructors in 1,600 training centers. They provide the highest quality training in the construction industry through registered apprenticeship programs.

This November NABTU is pushing the use of the branded term “National Save Apprenticeship Week,” according to a prepared statement. There’s a reason: The GOP Trump administration wants to let cut-rate low-paying non-union contractors run apprenticeship training, too. 

To counter, NABTU wants all affiliated building trades unions and Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee events to include discussion on how to preserve and protect “the registered apprenticeship system with its long history of producing the safest, most highly trained construction workers in the world,” NABTU said.

In August, the U.S. Department of Labor closed a comment period regarding a new initiative to encourage the expansion of the apprenticeship model. Part of that plan included the creation of Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs), which would not be held to the same rigid laws and DOL oversight, but rely on “self-monitoring.” The DOL plan allowed for an exemption for the construction industry.

NABTU encouraged its affiliates, their friends and family to support the construction exemption, but also call for it to become permanent. During the DOL comment period, nearly 325,000 Americans responded by supporting that stand. Now, building trades members await the final ruling from Trump’s DOL regarding IRAPs and the construction industry exemption. 

While a decision could be announced at any time, it will likely not take place before or during National Apprenticeship Week due to the recent confirmation of Eugene Scalia as Labor Secretary. That gives unions and workers time to promote “National Save Apprenticeship Week events during the second full week of November. 

The events can include tours, training demonstrations or anything else to highlight the value of registered building trades apprenticeship program and the local training center. And NABTU wants its member unions and locals to invite the media, state and local politicians and candidates, teachers, students and parents to visit and discuss the high-quality training. 

And it wants local unions and councils to take pictures and video of the training programs, the tours and the events, send them to both NABTU and local media and to post them on social media. 

It also wants speakers during these events to focus on the benefits of a registered building trades apprenticeship program. Roughly, 75 percent of all civilian registered apprentices are trained in the construction industry and the 14 NABTU-affiliated unions train over 75 percent of those apprentices.

“The important protections of the registered model safeguard the quality of construction, the highest level of training and the safety and security of the most skilled, competent and competitive workforce we’ll need to build the next generation of infrastructure in communities across America,” NABTU said in its prepared statement.