Obtaining a federal stamp of approval for your company’s apprenticeship program is en route to becoming less of a top-down bureaucratic ordeal under an executive order issued last year by President Donald Trump.
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These reforms of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) apprenticeship “registration” procedures – equivalent to official “certification” and eligibility for governmental support – are placing more emphasis on industry-specific standards developed by relevant entities such as trade organizations, labor unions and individual business owners.
The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) has been active in lobbying for this shift in policy on behalf of its Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association (HDMA), the Motor & Equipment Remanufacturers Association (MERA) and the Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA).
In a letter sent to the White House and other officials, MEMA President and CEO Steve Handschuh pointed out that “apprenticeship programs are important to vehicle suppliers that must acquire and retain highly skilled workers. MEMA members are involved in all areas of STEM education, including robotics, mentoring, internships and apprenticeships.”
Partnerships have been formed with colleges, technical schools, state educational agencies, local communities and private organizations. “Supplier companies involved in apprenticeship programs range from very large, global corporations with multiple facilities to local, small manufacturers with a limited number of facilities,” according to Handschuh.
“The advent of a major technology shift in transportation has underscored the need for trained workers requiring both traditional and advanced manufacturing skills. These programs must be expanded and amplified to meet the needs of the industry for a skilled and committed workforce,” he told Trump. “Your leadership will make the necessary expansion possible.”
Nearly 30 percent of MEMA’s overall member firms currently host a DOL-registered apprenticeship program, according to a survey conducted by the association in August. “We know this number is actually higher, as many companies reported that they have active apprentice programs for specific trades that involve paid college classes and on-the-job-training, but they are not registered with the DOL,” says AASA President and COO Bill Long, who is also executive vice president of MEMA’s Government Affairs Committee.
“Companies might not register their programs with the DOL because of the onerous administrative requirements called for under the current program, which is why we are advocating for streamlined administrative processes, flexibility in the types of apprenticeship programs and the ability to add more apprenticeship programs for broader occupations beyond the traditional programs,” Long tells Aftermarket Business World. “Some of the trades that our members have apprenticeship programs for include tool & die, maintenance – mechanical & electrical, technicians, IT and mechatronics.”