Biden Admin Ends Trump-Era Apprenticeship Program

President Joe Biden previously warned that Trump's Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program watered down the quality of the U.S. apprenticeship system.
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  • The Trump administration's Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program allowed corporations and trade groups to develop their own apprenticeships.
  • The Department of Labor found that the program "created a duplicative, lower-quality system" to the federal Registered Apprenticeship Program.
  • The Biden administration said it will instead focus on that long-established registered apprenticeship system into which it has recently invested millions of federal funds.

The Department of Labor will end a Trump-era program that allowed trade and industry groups, corporations, and other entities to develop their own apprenticeships.

The Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP) had its roots in a 2017 executive order by then-President Donald Trump. That order directed the Department of Labor to consider regulations that would allow third parties to develop apprenticeship programs.

President Joe Biden rescinded that executive order shortly after taking office in 2021. Biden criticized IRAP on the campaign trail, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, warning that it was "watering down the quality of the apprenticeship system."

In announcing a final rule on Friday to rescind IRAP, the Department of Labor said that the program "created a duplicative, lower-quality system that was not in the best interest of workers and industries."

The Department of Labor will instead focus on the long-established registered apprenticeship system that "offers higher quality training and worker protection standards, including progressively increasing wages and equal employment opportunity requirements," according to its news release.

The Registered Apprenticeship Program was established by the 1937 National Apprenticeship Act (NAA), also known as the Fitzgerald Act. Under the NAA, Department of Labor regulations protect the health, safety, and general welfare of apprentices as well as preventing racial, ethnic, religious, age, and gender discrimination in apprenticeship programs.

Labor officials will work with current IRAP apprentices to connect with established, registered apprenticeship programs, according to the release, and will likewise look to connect IRAPs with the registered apprenticeship system.

"By taking this regulatory action, the department reaffirms its commitment to the registered apprenticeship system and its value in helping U.S. workers, particularly those from underserved communities, to access good-paying, family sustaining jobs," the Department of Labor wrote in the release.

The Department of Labor has poured money into apprenticeship programs in recent months, including $121 million in grants earlier this year for community colleges and other groups to build out their apprenticeship programs.