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Minding the GRAP: New Apprenticeship Expansion Under the Biden Administration 

March 11 2024
Government, Labor Relations, Legislative Affairs, Safety, Safety and Health, Unions

by: Daniel Hogan

President Biden has issued an executive order focused on expanding government-registered apprenticeship programs (or GRAPs), another step by the administration to bolster a workforce desperate for highly skilled, well-trained labor.

Opposition may say this unfairly positions those who participate in GRAPs at an unnatural advantage, and could hinder projects by artificially limiting the pool of potential employees. However, as we see it, this most recent Executive Order continues an industry-wide push to ensure not only that the workforce exists, but is as safe, efficient, and skilled as possible.

Union apprenticeship programs have been shown to produce labor that regularly completes projects on time and under budget, while maintaining industry-leading safety records. From a study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois, union worksites are 19 percent less likely to have an OSHA violation, and have 34 percent fewer violations per inspection.

Incentivizing these apprenticeship programs should not be viewed as government overreach to guide the invisible hand of the market; quite the opposite in fact. There is a greater demand for safety than ever, and more skilled workers are needed by the day. This legislation is a codification of what the free market has determined to be the way forward – GRAPs produce higher quality work, and the federal government has chosen to incentivize this high-quality work.

In every other field, there is incentivization – whether through legislation or otherwise – to guide people down the path that produces the best, most consistent outcome. Would anyone bat an eye if going to Harvard was incentivized, or applying for jobs at the best companies was incentivized? I don’t believe they would. This EO applies that idea to the trades, mirroring attitudes exhibited in so many other industries.

Featured image: “Class photo for Ironworkers Union Local #86 apprentices” by Christopher Connell.

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