Biden Administration Expands Federal Registered Apprenticeships

A Biden administration executive order directs federal agencies to expand registered apprenticeships and incentivize their contractors to hire people who participated in those programs.
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Published on March 18, 2024
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  • A new executive order from President Joe Biden aims to expand federal registered apprenticeships.
  • The order directs federal agencies to look for ways to expand apprenticeship programs.
  • The order also directs federal agencies to incentivize grant recipients and contractors to hire people who previously worked in a registered apprenticeship.
  • An apprenticeship can provide a paid pathway to employment.

An apprenticeship can offer students real-world experience and an affordable path to employment — and a new executive order is set to expand those programs in the federal government.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order in early March that aims to create more registered apprenticeships in the federal government and promotes the hiring of students who participated in those programs.

Registered apprenticeships "are a proven strategy to expand equitable training pathways to good-paying jobs, including union jobs," a Biden administration fact sheet on the executive order reads. Bolstering registered apprenticeships has been a major workforce strategy for the Biden administration, which has so far invested more than $440 million to boost the registered apprenticeship program.

An apprenticeship often offers students a paid opportunity to train and work in their chosen field, and the term "registered" means an apprenticeship is certified by the U.S. Department of Labor or a state apprenticeship agency.

The new executive order directs federal agencies, including the Department of Labor and Office of Personnel Management, to look for ways to expand federal registered apprenticeships.

Vice President Kamala Harris during a March 6 visit to Madison, Wisconsin, underscored registered apprenticeships as a way for workers to unlock good jobs without having to go into debt.

"Apprenticeship programs for labor and … union apprenticeship programs also pay their apprentices while they're in the program, which means that people don’t have to worry about whether they have to borrow money in order to receive an education that is for the benefit of the community and its productivity," Harris said.

It also requires federal agencies to incentivize grant recipients and contractors to employ workers who participated in registered apprenticeship programs. That could lead contractors and other organizations that work with the federal government to hire more people who previously worked in a registered apprenticeship program.

The Biden administration previously launched an Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiative, with more than 200 organizations committing to developing hundreds of new registered apprenticeship programs.

Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, called the executive order "a meaningful step toward building a stronger, more inclusive middle class and enhancing the quality of our federal workforce" in a statement.

"The expansion of registered apprenticeships within the federal government will create new opportunities for working Americans to advance their careers and find stable, well-paid employment in the trades while also ensuring our nation is equipped with the skills and expertise needed to meet the challenges of the future," Kelley said in the statement.

The executive order also reestablished labor-management forums, which "are a tool used by union members and management, acting together, to jointly improve their workplaces," according to the fact sheet.

Registered apprenticeship programs play a major role in the administration's workforce development roadmap. That "Investing in America" roadmap, unveiled last year, aims to connect people to skills-based jobs and prepare workers for tech-heavy jobs created by federal legislation like the CHIPS Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

That roadmap includes workforce hubs centered around developing technologies in Phoenix; Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh; Baltimore; and Augusta, Georgia.