There are few issues that unite Republicans and Democrats in Congress these days. As the 435 U.S. House members and 100 Senators prepare for national elections in less than 16 months, one issue that seems to attract support involves apprenticeship programs.
Apprenticeship is a very old concept from the Middle Ages where craftsmen took the time to have a younger person work side by side to learn the craft. This concept has been carried down through time to where today we talk of apprentices who also learn their trades and participate in extensive training programs with employer support. Many Congressmen and Senators have introduced and support legislation that enhances apprenticeship programs around the country as a way to train or retrain the workforce where there is a high demand for skilled workers.
In this 114th Congress that began in last January, there have already been over 60 bills introduced that support apprenticeships in both the House and the Senate. Many of them are in jobs training programs, or support for veterans that have left the service to train or receive certification and licensing for participating in apprenticeship programs. Some bills provide grants to states to support apprenticeship and many relate to tax benefits for employers.
ESA has reached out to two Senators who are very supportive of apprenticeship ‑ one a Democrat, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and the other a Republican, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who have both sponsored a bill called, the "Leveraging and Energizing America's Apprenticeship Programs Act,” S.574. The bill provides for a $1,500 tax credit to employers for each apprentice below the age of 25 and $1,000 for those over 25. The credit cannot be for more than two taxable years and the apprentice must be in a program recognized by the Office of Apprenticeship of the Employment and Training Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor (the ESA program has this designation). The tax credit would be a part of the business taxes to be paid. To address the issue of "cost," the sponsors proposed to pay for this credit by reducing federal government publications over a ten year period and to move these printed documents to websites. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, which considers all tax legislation and which one of the sponsors, Sen. Tim Scott, is a member of the Committee.
Another major bill introduced recently in the U.S. House is HR1781, by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and cosponsored by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) called the "Workforce Development Tax Credit Act." Similar to the Senate bill, this House legislation offers employers a tax credit for 50 percent of the wages paid to an apprentice for up to $2000 for each taxable year. The credit can be for three years (up to $6,000) and there is another 40 percent of wages paid for an additional taxable year for each employee who successfully completes an apprenticeship training program. This bill also defines the apprenticeship program to include employees pursuant to a recognized federal US Department of Labor apprenticeship program. Finally, the apprentice in this bill must work for at least 25 hours per week during 28 consecutive weeks a year and completes at least 8 hours of classroom work under a qualified training program, also approved by the US Department of Labor. This bill has been referred and is pending in the House Ways and Means Committee, which considers all tax legislation.
Some of the major apprenticeship bills ESA is monitoring in addition to the two mentioned above include HR2551, "Veterans Entry to Apprenticeship Act," by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), pending in the House Veterans Affairs Committee, S.959, the "Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act," by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), pending in the Senate Finance Committee, H.R.2431, the "On-the-Job Training Tax Credit Act,” by Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), pending in the House Ways and Means Committee, H.R.2224, the "Youth Access to American Jobs Act," by Rep. Rick Larsen(D-WA) and pending in the House Education and the Workforce Committee,S.191,"Educating Tomorrows Workforce Act," by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), pending in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Apprenticeship legislation in the Congress will result in passage of bills enhancing these programs and will seek to compliment apprentices learning trades and new technologies in the short term. The ESA's National Apprenticeship Program is recognized by the US Department of Labor and is designed for the occupation of "Protective Signal Installer and Security and Fire Alarm Systems Installer."