Senators Murray and Hatch Introduce EARNS Act to Boost Skilled Workforce

Last Wednesday, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the EARNS Act (Effective Apprenticeship Rebuild National Skills Act) in an effort to boost the nation’s high-skilled workforce and allow the U.S. to remain competitive in a global economy.  The bill seeks to strengthen employee training by increasing awareness of apprenticeship programs and encouraging access to these learning environments.

Apprenticeships are a unique type of job training that have been used for hundreds of years.  Essentially, apprenticeships are employer based training programs where employers provide workers a combination of on-the-job training, financial compensation, and instruction.  Many high-skilled jobs require skills that necessitate training and development beyond the classroom, which is why apprenticeships are beneficial.  Moreover, the class-room curriculum that accompany apprenticeship programs, while often taught in combination with post-secondary institutions, are ultimately crafted and developed by partnering with businesses and organizations, which ensures that workers gain skills that will actually be utilized once they leave the classroom. 

The Department of Labor has seen much success promoting apprenticeships for high-skilled jobs, but the existing framework lacks the rigidity and support necessary to keep up with the demands of our growing economy.  There are simply more jobs than there are high-skilled workers to fill them.  Moreover, workers are itching for an opportunity to fill these jobs, as unemployment rates among  youth (that will largely benefit from apprenticeships) is at record high levels.  The EARNS Act will bridge the gap between employers seeking high-skilled labor, and the large workforce seeking the training required for high-skilled jobs. 

Specifically, the EARNS Act will build upon the existing apprenticeship framework by:

  • Establishing the Office of Apprenticeship under the U.S. Department of Labor, which establishes Congressional oversight and budgetary regulation for apprenticeships
  • Promoting and developing pre-apprenticeship programs, which will require a direct link between classroom instruction and registered apprenticeship placement.
  • Promoting greater diversity in registered apprenticeship programs (reaching out to veterans and disadvantaged communities).
  • Aligning registered apprenticeship programs with other federal education and training programs and with state and local workforce development boards.
  • Making available funds to defray the upfront costs for companies that create their first apprenticeship program or add companies to existing registered apprenticeships, which will expand the number employers offering registered apprenticeships.

With the legislative framework complete, there no longer needs to exist a rift between educators (secondary and post-secondary institutions), private employers (businesses, organizations, etc.), and government. By increasing the collaborative efforts and efficiency between these key players in workforce development, and specifically apprenticeships, the EARNS Act will unleash the potential of the U.S. economy.

We look forward to working with the Senate in advancing this bill. It is critical that we continue training a high-skilled workforce to remain competitive in this global economy.

A copy of our letter of support to Senators Murray and Hatch can be found here.