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US Labor Department announces final rule to help employers diversify workforce, provide apprenticeship opportunity for all Americans
WASHINGTON – To broaden career opportunities in registered apprenticeships for traditionally under-represented groups, the US Department of Labor today issued a final rule that updates equal employment opportunity requirements.
The final rule amends existing requirements last updated in 1978 and extends current protections against discrimination to include disability, age (40 years or older), genetic information and sexual orientation. The rule’s provisions simplify the steps employers and sponsors must take to make compliance easier, ensure equal opportunity in apprenticeship and help businesses leverage the program’s benefits.
“The final rule issued today adjusts existing regulations to streamline and clarify requirements for employers wherever possible. It extends protections against discrimination in apprentice hiring, better defines steps needed to ensure equal opportunity and provides apprenticeship programs with additional time to develop initial affirmative action programs,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Portia Wu. “The department continues to look for ways to help states strengthen their workforce. This rule provides a more flexible framework for them, and creates more opportunities for workers and employers to take advantage of modern apprenticeships.”
Since 2014, an additional 125,000 American workers have jump-started their careers through registered apprenticeship, a time-tested and highly regarded learn-while-you-earn employment model. Today, there are now more than 500,000 apprentices nationwide. The progress comes after President Obama’s call to double and diversify the number of job-driven apprenticeships.
The final rule aligns with the $90 million funding strategy to grow and diversify apprenticeship announced in April 2016. It follows an unprecedented $175 million investment in apprenticeship announced in September 2015 by the administration, and includes partnership contracts that focus specifically on increasing access to apprenticeship opportunities for women, people of color and people with disabilities.
Job-driven apprenticeships are among the best pathways to provide American workers with the skills and knowledge they need to acquire good-paying jobs and grow the economy. Research shows 91 percent of those who complete their apprenticeship programs find employment with average wages above $60,000. The return on investment for employers is also impressive: International studies find that – for every dollar spent on apprenticeship – employers get an average of $1.47 back in increased productivity and greater front-line innovation.
The regulation will take effect on Jan. 18, 2017, 30 days following publication in the Federal Register, but the rule provides more time beyond that for sponsors to come into compliance with the non-discrimination and affirmative action obligations in the rule. The department will provide a series of technical assistance opportunities to all state apprenticeship agencies and other key stakeholders.
The full text of the Final Rule and other information can be found on the Office of Apprenticeship’s EEO website, https://www.doleta.gov/oa/eeo/.