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Senators unveil bill to overhaul apprenticeship programs

Vicki Needham, The Hill   ·   Link to Article

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation on Wednesday that would overhaul and expand the nation’s apprenticeship programs and better train workers for the changing global economy.

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) unveiled the legislation that aims to bolster the nation’s workforce development system through registered apprenticeship programs.

The measure — the Effective Apprenticeships Rebuild National Skills (EARNS) Act — would support pre-apprenticeship programs and new or expanding registered apprenticeship programs that provide nationally recognized credentials and would help with earning academic credit.

“To ensure that our workforce can truly lead in the 21st century global economy, we need our students and workers to be prepared to compete for high-skill, high-wage jobs in industries across the economy,” said Murray, the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

"By strengthening and expanding registered apprenticeship programs, we can help workers get the training and experience they’ll need, while they are also earning a paycheck, and provide a ladder of opportunity to reach a stable middle-class life," she said. 

Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said that current apprenticeship programs “are in desperate need of reform.”

“Outdated models and overbearing federal requirements have strangled many job-training programs, preventing millions of workers from gaining the national credentials and transferable academic credits they need to sharpen their skills and progress in their careers,” Hatch said.

By 2018, the U.S. will face a shortage of millions of workers with recognized postsecondary credentials, the lawmakers said.

A 2012 evaluation of registered apprenticeship programs found that the return on every public dollar invested in registered apprenticeship programs was $27, according to a survey by the Mathematica Policy Research.

The survey also found that individuals who completed registered apprenticeship programs earned $240,000 more over their careers than individuals not participating in such programs.

This bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Al Franken (D-Minn).