Long-needed changes create more flexibility for apprentices and employers.

The need for a flexible National Apprenticeship System is critical to address the needs of the nation’s regional economies and provide for the development of a skilled, competitive workforce for the global economy. The U.S. Department of Labor recently took up that cause and issued final regulations that update labor standards for the nation’s Registered Apprenticeship programs. The rule takes effect on Dec. 29, 2008; state apprenticeship agencies (SAAs) have up to an additional two years from the effective date to implement necessary changes.

This is the first time since 1977 that these regulations have been revised.

The revised regulations create more flexibility for apprentices and employers, providing each with increased choices to meet the needs of industries that have traditionally used Registered Apprenticeship programs, as well as connecting with the workforce demands of new and emerging industries.

The most significant changes to the regulations include:

  • The creation of multiple training approaches that increase flexibility for employers to select which path best serves an apprentice’s or employer's needs. Options include a:

    • 1. Traditional, time-based approach, which requires the apprentice to complete a specific number of on-the-job training (OJT) and related technical instruction (RTI) hours.

      2. Competency-based approach, which requires the apprentice to demonstrate competency in the defined subject areas and does not require any specific hours of OJT or RTI.

      3. Hybrid approach, which requires the apprentice to complete a minimum number of OJT and RTI hours and demonstrate competency in the defined subject areas.

  • Interim credentials that offer active apprentices official recognition of accomplishments and equip apprentices with a portfolio of skills and incentives to continue their career preparation and complete their programs. Issued as certificates, such credentials will enable apprentices to demonstrate to employers their proficiency in particular required skills and competencies. Interim credentials will be issued only for recognized components of an apprentice’s occupation.

  • Increased options for using electronic media to provide related technical instruction to apprentices. This change is designed to take advantage of technological advances that allow for distance learning and other technology-based instruction.

  • Changes to the regulations establish 90-day timeframes for registration agencies to process sponsor requests for registering and modifying program standards, and 45-day timeframes for sponsors to notify registration agencies regarding other employment and apprenticeship agreement changes.

  • Previously, apprentices in building and construction programs could work as registered apprentices only in those states where their programs were registered, because the states were not required to accord reciprocal registration or approval to out-of-state building and construction programs.

    The updated regulations remove this exemption and provide for reciprocal approval, for federal purposes, of apprentices, apprenticeship programs and standards that are registered in other states for all industries and occupations. To ensure that out-of-state programs do not gain an undue advantage over reciprocal state programs when bidding on a contract, apprenticeship program sponsors seeking reciprocal approval are now required to meet the wage and hour provisions and apprentice ratio standards of the reciprocal state.

  • Programs with completion rates below the national average will be provided with technical assistance targeted to improve their performance and improve overall program quality. In addition to completion rates, the revised regulations emphasize the existing practice of using quality assurance assessments and Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance Reviews to evaluate program performance for quality and compliance with program requirements.

  • In an effort to establish a clear path of accountability between the U.S. Department of Labor and the state agency that oversees apprenticeship, the regulations grant registration agency recognition solely to state apprenticeship agencies. State apprenticeship councils will continue to be required for advisory or regulatory purposes.

  • The states have the flexibility to determine the location of the apprenticeship agency within the state government organizational structure. It is no longer required that an SAA be housed in a state’s labor department.

  • For more information on the new rules or the National Apprenticeship program, go towww.doleta.gov/OA/regulations.cfm#faq.

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