SMACNA Urges Congress to Pass the National Apprenticeship Act

Bipartisan legislation would create one million new apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship opportunities through a five-year, $3.8 billion investment.

SMACNA communicated its priority support to the House of Representatives in visits and statements, outlining the importance of H.R. 2851, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2023. This bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) and cosponsored by Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Don Bacon (R-NE), and Don Norcross (D-NJ), is designed to address the crises level shortage of highly skilled workers in the face of an increasing number of national construction projects, a crisis created by an insufficient commitment to registered apprenticeship training investment across too much of the construction industry for far too long. In addition, there has been a persistent aversion to investing in job training in any formal manner outside the organized construction employer sector. This corner-cutting and sham training efforts by too many contractors opposing the registered apprenticeship model have affected workforce quality, the industry's ability to meet design complexities, and owners' demands for excellence. 

H.R. 2851 would create nearly one million new Registered Apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship, and pre-apprenticeship opportunities over the next five years; The Act would accomplish this objective through a five-year, $3.8 billion investment. The House passed the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021 in the last session of Congress by a bipartisan vote of 247- 173. With SMACNA's support, the House also included a revised version of that legislation in the House-passed America COMPETES Act. These badly needed resources will help scale up apprenticeship opportunities, streamline access to apprenticeships for workers and employers and expand apprenticeships into new and in-demand industry sectors and occupations. According to the Department of Labor (DOL), 93 percent of apprentices who complete a Registered Apprenticeship are employed upon completion, earning an average starting wage of above $77,000 annually. Businesses earn $1.44 for every dollar invested in their Registered Apprenticeship program. 

"Our unions are living proof of its success as we have trained and graduated millions of men and women from these programs and into middle-class careers in construction," said Sean McGarvey, President of North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU).

It is widely understood that the Registered Apprenticeship Program(RAP) remains underfunded; H.R. 2851 would directly address these funding shortfalls while saving American taxpayers an estimated $10.6 billion in increased tax revenues from higher worker pay and productivity and decreased spending on public-assistance programs and unemployment insurance. The legislation also codifies and streamlines standards for registered apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, and pre-apprenticeship programs, including requirements for apprenticeship agreements and program registration to ensure consistency in quality standards and worker protections. 

In outlining SMACNA's support for the bill, Stan Kolbe, SMACNA's Executive Director, Government, and Political Affairs, stated that "This vitally important legislation is needed now to respond to a quickly expanding list of federal infrastructure, energy, CHIPS and Science and military construction projects now being bid or underway." While the skilled workforce has major and smaller projects of significant complexity under contract or moving to bid for years to come. Only by expanding the support for registered apprenticeships can the industry meet the demand for top-flight contractors employing a highly skilled and trained workforce based upon the registered apprenticeship model, called the "gold standard" for training across the globe.

Currently, H.R. 2851 is gathering cosponsors with SMACNA's support. It awaits committee and floor consideration as a stand-alone bill or an amendment to other related legislation. Senate introduction of a companion bill is anticipated.

 Take a moment to read SMACNA’s letter of support for H.R. 2851.