Dive Insight:

Trump's executive order on IRAP promoted the development of apprenticeship programs by third parties such as trade and industry groups, corporations, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, unions and joint labor-management organizations. 

Under the measure, employers and industry groups had leeway in designing their federal apprenticeship programs without much oversight from the government. For example, appointed organizations or SREs weren't required to report to the DOL information on a program's success rate, according to Bloomberg Law. It wasn't until March 2020 that the DOL published a final rule updating the evaluation process of IRAPs. Under the rule, the DOL could recognize and oversee organizations, referred to as SREs, that work with companies and various entities to establish and monitor apprenticeship programs. 

But IRAP caused controversy as House Democrats were concerned about its effects on the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP), possibly reducing funding for RAPs and the possibility of putting safety and quality standards for workers at risk. IRAP's shortcomings included failure to require the "wage progression that reflects increasing apprentice skills" and not having standardized training rigor, according to the Feb. 17 statement by the White House. In 2019, a national network of organizations dedicated to expanding apprenticeship programs, wrote in a public statement voicing concern that "the creation of a parallel system of Industry Programs may further fragment our national apprenticeship system and introduce programs of widely varying quality."

Some viewed IRAPs as beneficial. They are an "important step in opening up more nontraditional and affordable education opportunities," Rachel Greszler, senior policy analyst at Washington-based conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, told the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) in September 2020. DOL announced the first group of SREs Sept. 23, according to SHRM.

In addition to reinstating the National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships, Biden has endorsed Congressman Bobby Scott's (D-VA) bipartisan National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, which will "create and expand registered apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs," according to the White House. The bill is said to ensure the programs create a diverse workforce by supporting industry and equity intermediaries in recruitment and fostering partnerships between apprenticeship programs and community colleges, the announcement said.