With bipartisanship virtually dead in Congress, it’s rare to find issues that both democrats and republicans can agree on, especially in the labor and economic realm. One such issue has generated bills in the House and Senate at the end of this session of Congress and will be addressed in 2015 when the new 114th Congress begins in January. The issue is apprenticeship and the ability to assist certain industries -- one in the electrical and one in the electronic security area – in providing incentives for businesses to attract a skilled workforce for the future and to get on-the-job training. Years ago ESA secured approval from the U.S. Department of Labor for the National Apprenticeship Program, which is available nationwide and supported by some of the chartered chapters.
In mid-September, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced S. 2792, the "Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act." The proposed bill would create a $5,000 tax credit for up to three years to companies that hire and pay employees enrolled in approved apprenticeship programs; allow senior employees to mentor students by drawing on their pensions earlier; and assist veterans get into skilled jobs by allowing credit in apprenticeship programs. Since the session is coming to a close, the bill will be reintroduced in 2015.
But those aren’t the only politicians playing nice in D.C. Another bipartisan pair, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are sponsoring S. 2234, the "Leveraging and Energizing America's Apprenticeship Programs Act." Their bill also offers $1,500 tax credits to companies that hire apprentices under age 25 and $1,000 for those over 25. The Scott-Booker bill has a House counterpart bill introduced by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL). Both Senate and House bills are supported by the U.S. business community and unions, and are expected to generate interest in the next Congress.
On Sept. 18, 2014, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), introduced HR 5533, the "Promoting Apprenticeships for Credentials and Employment Act," which would provide more than $50 million in federal grants to approved apprenticeship programs that seek to reach industries, businesses, unions and others that provide training, curriculum development and other support for their apprenticeship efforts. The Congressman's office said that by 2018 there will be a need in the U.S. for more than 3 or 4 million skilled workers, many in the construction and electrical trades.
Apprenticeship is a key issue that the next Congress will address within the context of retraining, assisting dislocated workers, building a skilled workforce for the future and making the U.S. more economically competitive in the world.