By Chuck White, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published its final rule establishing Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs). PHCC has been following the development of the IRAP rule for several years and has previously filed comments that called into question many of the underlying assumptions supporting the creation of this program.
The DOL acknowledged many of the points raised by PHCC; the department disagreed with some but agreed with others. The DOL did agree that the costs related to some phases of the program implementation – those originally attributed to the Standards Recognition Entities (SREs supervise multiple IRAPs) – actually should be attributed to the IRAP providers (those being supervised), a significant increase in cost for that portion of the program. In the end, the department determined that while some costs increased, those increases were of minimal impact to the overall program and did not support a comprehensive revision to the program’s economic model.
The DOL did, however, agree with PHCC and with many other commenters that the construction industry has had a very successful track record with Registered Apprentice Programs. Specifically, the department determined in the final rule that “programs that seek to train apprentices to perform construction activities … will not be recognized as IRAPs.” PHCC is particularly encouraged that the DOL reiterated its support for registered apprenticeships by observing that they are “more widespread and well-established in the construction sector than in any other sector … there is no need to take the risk, whatever the magnitude, of disrupting or displacing registered construction programs.” Further, the department sees no need to “sunset” the exclusion by establishing a fixed termination date but leaves open the possibility to reconsider should IRAPs be highly successful in other industries.
The DOL agreed with PHCC and others in the need for more clarification of the definition of “construction.” The previous definition only considered the actual construction process; it was unclear if the same building trades in construction would be included for their service and maintenance activities. DOL specifically added “maintenance and repairs” to the definition to eliminate confusion.
Lastly, there has been much discussion regarding IRAP workers being prohibited from work regulated by the Davis-Bacon Act. While the department has not included specific language defining this prohibition, the actual language of the Davis-Bacon Act (29 CFR 5.5(a)(4)(i) clearly limits participation to workers in Registered Apprentice Programs. The DOL further declined to opine on the applicability of state prevailing wage laws as those laws vary depending upon the state in question.
PHCC will continue to follow this developing program and looks forward to its continued work with the DOL to advance Registered Apprentice education among its chapters.
Vice President of Regulatory Affairs , PHCC-National Association