Wicker bill aims to make it easier for businesses to establish apprenticeship programs

Legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) on Wednesday would streamline and expedite the process for businesses to apply to the Department of Labor (DOL) to create or renew apprenticeship programs.

“Apprenticeships are an important workforce development tool,” Wicker said. “These programs provide a unique opportunity for people to receive on-the-job training with experts in their field while they ‘earn as they learn.’”

The bill, S. 1841, would require the DOL’s State Apprenticeship Agency to act on apprenticeship applications within 90 days. The agency would forward applications to the DOL if decisions can’t be made within 90 days, and the DOL would then have 30 days to make a decision before automatic approval.

More than 90 percent of apprentices find jobs after completing an apprenticeship program. The average starting wage is $60,000 per year, and lifetime earnings for apprenticeship graduates are $300,000 higher, according to a DOL study.

“The purpose of my legislation is to streamline government bureaucracy, making it easier for employers to create an apprenticeship program or update an existing one,” Wicker said. “This should lead to giving American workers more options and opportunities to get an affordable education and a well-paying job.”

The legislation would establish the statute to meet a goal outlined in President Donald Trump’s executive order on expanding apprenticeships in America that was issued in June.

“Despite the billions of taxpayer dollars invested in these programs each year, many Americans are struggling to find full-time work,” the president’s executive order said.  “These federal programs must do a better job matching unemployed American workers with open jobs, including the 350,000 manufacturing jobs currently available.”