As Congress turns its attention to wrapping up its
remaining work this fall and preparing for the
upcoming midterm elections, there are several
emerging trends that are beneficial to community
colleges—and are not expected to change drastically regardless of which party holds control of
Congress next January.
First, both Congress and the Trump administration recognize that more Americans need to be
equipped with the skills and credentials necessary
to help employers in high-demand professions.
With more jobs available than workers in our
current economy, work-based learning has gained
considerable momentum in Washington, D.C., as
a core mechanism to help jobseekers gain employment, with the strongest focus on how to quickly
expand the number of apprenticeships.
FOCUS ON APPRENTICESHIPS
Members of Congress in both parties have proposed
bills to increase both the number of apprenticeships
and the types of occupations eligible to offer them.
However, an ideological debate between the parties
has ensued over the role of registered apprenticeship programs, which require a state certification
process and have been traditionally used by trade
unions. While many Republicans have not been
enamored with expanding registered apprenticeship programs, they have been drawn to creating
a new brand of apprenticeship that is business led,
rather than requiring a governmental certification.
These so-called industry recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs) were fast-tracked
by President Trump’s executive order last year
establishing a Task Force on Apprenticeship
Expansion—on which Walter Bumphus, president
and CEO of American Association of Community
Colleges, served—to provide specific recommendations for accelerating business-led apprenticeships.
The task force issued its report in May, and
the administration has built upon these findings
to create a new funding opportunity in which
community colleges will play a central role. The
Scaling Apprenticeships through Sector-Based
Strategies grants, released by the U.S. Department
of Labor in July, offer a total of $150 million in
grants for 15-30 business-led apprenticeship projects. Applications are due October 16, and eligible
applicants must be a partnership led by a community college or four-year institution, along with a
business-led association or consortium of businesses in a high-demand sector.
The grants will focus on expanding apprenticeships in high-demand sectors and require
an educational or instructional component and
supportive services that results in an industry-recognized credential. What is appealing about
this funding is how broadly community colleges
can use it to pay for program development, including working with industry partners to establish
new apprenticeship programs, creating the infrastructure and curricula necessary to provide
industry-approved, competency-based programming for on-the-job and classroom training, as
well as developing quality assurance processes
and data systems, and outreach to small- and
medium-sized businesses to expand apprenticeships
within a given industry sector. More information
about this grant is available at https://bit.ly/2whxyjl.
Emerging trends to
watch in Washington
By John Colbert and Leander J. Foley III