Within the Department of Labor, several agencies are involved with apprenticeship programs. The National Apprenticeship Act of 1937 (also known as "the Fitzgerald Act"), established the Department of Labor's role to safeguard the welfare of apprentices, ensure equality of access to apprenticeship programs, and provide integrated employment and training information to sponsors and the local employment and training community. The Employment and Training Administration administers the National Apprenticeship Act including the regulatory framework for registration of apprenticeship programs and administration of the National Apprenticeship System.
The Office of Labor-Management Standards administers and enforces most provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 and may conduct joint investigations with the Employee Benefits Security Administration.
For apprenticeship and training programs that cover private sector workers and are financed out of trust funds, the Employee Benefits Security Administration has a role in overseeing the plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). ERISA includes within its definition of "employee welfare benefit plan" any plan fund or program that was established or maintained to provide "apprenticeship or other training programs." Most private sector collectively bargained apprenticeship and training programs are covered by ERISA because the Labor-Management Relations Act requires that the expenses of any joint labor/management apprenticeship committee be defrayed out of monies placed in a separate fund.
ERISA sets standards of conduct for those who manage an employee benefit plan and its assets, including fiduciary responsibilities, submitting reports to the government and disclosing information to workers participating in the plans. ERISA-covered apprenticeship and training plans can be exempted from several ERISA requirements including annual reporting (Form 5500 Annual Report), audits, disclosures (Summary Plan Description, Summary of Material Modifications, etc.), and recordkeeping requirements if specified conditions are met. However, the plan fiduciaries are still subject to the fiduciary responsibility standards of ERISA.
For a general overview of the fiduciary responsibilities under ERISA, see the FAQs. For more information on the fiduciary responsibilities applicable to ERISA-covered apprenticeship and training programs using the plan's assets for graduation ceremonies and program marketing, see Field Assistance Bulletin 2012-01 below. Having and adhering to strong financial controls and written policies and procedures regarding travel, reimbursement, and credit card use are among the best ways for ERISA-covered apprenticeship plans to comply with their fiduciary responsibilities. The Office of Labor-Management Standards has developed resources to help create effective policies available at www.dol.gov/olms/regs/compliance/compltips.htm.
EBSA offers a Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP), which allows employee benefit plans to self-identify and correct certain violations of ERISA. Two general transactions covered by the VFCP may be of particular interest to apprenticeship and training plans: the sale or purchase of an asset to or by a party in interest and the payment of duplicate, excessive, or unnecessary compensation. For complete information on the VFCP, including how to apply and acceptable methods for correcting violations, see the Voluntary Correction Programs page.