By Iris Hentze and Saige Draeger
Legislation on apprenticeships and career and technical education (CTE) remains at the top of the priority list for lawmakers in many states year over year.
Informed by a need for skilled workers in in-demand industries, states continue to explore how apprenticeships can help drive local economies by increasing workforce talent. Last week was National Apprenticeship Week and here's a rundown of state apprenticeship activity.
In 2019, the popularity of apprenticeship programs continued with legislators from states across the nation considering thousands of bills on the topic. Out of these bills, several trends emerge as some common focal points across states.
Most states already have some form of apprenticeship programs in place, but may still be experiencing worker shortages in high-demand industries or a lack of specific skills requested by local employers. Some states are forming temporary work groups, advisory councils or committees to study how current apprenticeship programs are succeeding and to make recommendations to the state legislature on how they can be improved.
States as diverse as Alabama, California and Connecticut all passed this type of legislation in 2019. Connecticut’s legislation, for example, tasks the state’s labor commissioner and commissioner of education to partner in establishing a committee to coordinate and modernize apprenticeship training programs in the state. The committee is directed to report its analysis of the state’s apprenticeship programs and its related recommendations to the General Assembly.
In addition to assessing the effectiveness of current apprenticeship programs, states continue to work to ensure apprentices leave their programs with an industry-recognized and U.S. Department of Labor-approved credential. Since the enactment of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in 2014, states continue to pursue significant legislation to align state apprenticeship programs with the requirements outlined by the department and to ensure state apprenticeship programs are formally registered with the department.
Alabama continued this trend in 2019, passing SB 295, which aligns state-level apprenticeship programs with official U.S. Department of Labor requirements and restructures the state’s approach to CTE.
Another common theme in apprenticeship and CTE policy this year was an interest in targeting programs to specific populations who may particularly benefit from developing important career skills.
Veterans are one group lawmakers have targeted with apprenticeship legislation in recent years to help expand available job opportunities for those returning to the civilian workforce. Connecticut passed SB 968 this year, establishing the state’s Military-to-Machinists job training pilot program. The pilot, to be run by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development Boards, will assist any veteran in earning an advanced manufacturing certificate from a qualifying program.
Increasingly, legislators are considering apprenticeship bills targeted at formerly incarcerated or currently incarcerated individuals. Many states offer some form of apprenticeship programs administered by their Department of Corrections for currently incarcerated individuals. States such as Michigan build funding for CTE programming in prisons into their state budget. Michigan’s Corrections Budget bill for 2019 specifically directs the state’s Department of Corrections to continue to offer workforce development programming through the duration of incarceration and to encourage the employment of individuals upon release.
For the reentry population, Alaska passed HB 49 this year, requiring the state Commissioner of Corrections to work with the Department of Labor to provide access, after release, to job training, employment assistance and other job-related reentry services for individuals leaving the prison system. Maryland passed HB 1167 establishing a CTE pilot program for formerly incarcerated individuals, specifically intended to assist them in finding employment in the construction industry.
As states look to continue expanding apprenticeship opportunities, legislators have also introduced legislation aimed at creating inclusive apprenticeships for people with disabilities.
With an unemployment rate more than double that of those without a disability, individuals with disabilities face unique obstacles to entering the workforce and securing employment. Access to work-based learning opportunities, which can help bolster employment and facilitate independent living, remains a key predictor of post-secondary success for people with disabilities.
California’s AB 1019 adds the director of rehabilitation and the executive director of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities to the state’s existing Interagency Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship, affirming the Legislature’s intent to include more people with disabilities in the expansion and consideration of apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. In addition to adding voices from the disability community, the bill also creates a subcommittee to examine strategies for increasing apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeships participation rates for people with disabilities.
Iris Hentze is a policy associate and Saige Draeger is a research analyst in NCSL’s Employment, Labor and Retirement Program.