SMACNA Expresses Support for National Registered Apprenticeship Programs
CHANTILLY, Va., December 22, 2023 – The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) is supported by more than 3,500 construction firms specializing in industrial, commercial, residential, architectural and specialty sheet metal and air conditioning construction in public and private markets throughout the United States. While many of our members are of significant size and provide a wide scope of expert construction services on major projects, most of these contractors operate family-owned businesses with a highly skilled workforce. This industry profile explains why these firms, providing expertise far above industry standards, rely on their local Department of Labor (DOL) registered apprenticeship programs to provide them with quality certified skilled workers.
SMACNA has long been a champion of National Apprenticeship standards over decades of supporting and investing far above the industry standard in registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs). Along with other quality contractors, these extraordinary investments will help alleviate the shortage of highly skilled workers in the face of an increasing number of national construction projects. Decades ago, it was clear that a skilled labor crisis was coming and was caused by an insufficient commitment to registered apprenticeship training investment across too much of the construction industry for far too long. In addition, there has been a persistent aversion to investing in job training in any formal or consistent manner outside the organized construction employer sector. These corner-cutting and improvised sham training efforts by non-union contractors opposing the registered apprenticeship model have noticeably impacted workforce supply and quality. Without question, the industry’s ability to meet ever changing design complexities, and owner demands for project excellence have been and continue to be compromised. Simply put, DOL has reviewed this crisis in the skilled labor marketplace and the considered owner-developer concerns and proposed long overdue RAP reforms.
On December 14th the Department of Labor took a significant step in the right direction by announcing a notice of proposed rulemaking that would make the following enhancements to apprenticeship programs:
- Strengthening of labor standards, quality, and worker protections by making occupational skills and training more portable, enhancing alignment with postsecondary education, and providing better performance data.
- Better defining roles for State Apprenticeship Agencies and other stakeholders within the National Apprenticeship System.
- Codifying the Office of Apprenticeship’s role for national leadership, promotion, and standards.
- Promoting apprenticeship pathways, including pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship readiness programs, by expanding performance and data requirements to improve accountability, transparency, and program outcomes.
- Creating a student-centric model of Registered Apprenticeship, called Registered Career and Technical Education Apprenticeship designed to make them more seamless for full-time high school and community college students to enroll in a Registered Apprenticeship. This approach is modeled after high-quality youth apprenticeship systems in states across the country.
SMACNA contractors and allied quality driven contractors have invested billions of dollars of private funds to support even greater amounts of resources to provide their employees with the highest quality certified training in a safe environment. This is training that allows workers to not only graduate after acquiring first-rate marketable skills but forges the path to a lifelong career in the ever-complex construction industry. Further, we offer a leading pay and benefits package appropriate for attracting a highly skilled and trained workforce. More than 10,000 apprentices are registered in affiliated training facilities in the United States and Canada.
The registered apprenticeship programs sponsored by SMACNA contractors and their SMART union labor counterparts, had a national and local combined training investment of $73 million dollars invested in training, infrastructure, and instructors with more than 14,000 pre and indentured apprentices being trained as of the beginning of 2023. These apprentices work for thousands of SMACNA firms, all with a substantial investment in public works projects involving energy savings, facility energy management and residential, commercial, public, and industrial energy system service, construction, and efficient retrofits. Based upon our extensive and long-term involvement in the registered apprenticeship programs nationwide we believe these standards are vital to future growth.
Collectively, the changes will ensure that apprentices receive broad-based, quality training that will provide them with marketable skills for their entire careers and further the DOL’s goal of “rebuilding the middle class” and “connecting a diverse workforce to family-sustaining jobs.”
SMACNA is but a small part of the vast network of certified and registered apprenticeships already available in the construction industry. As noted, by DOL statistics, construction represents 48% of all registered apprenticeship programs in the United States.
Stan Kolbe, SMACNA’s Executive Director, Government, and Political Affairs, stated that “Only by expanding the support for registered apprenticeships can the industry meet the demand for top-flight contractors employing a highly skilled and trained workforce based upon the registered apprenticeship model, considered the ‘gold standard’ for training across the globe.” The proposal also affirms Registered Apprenticeship programs have a proven track record of getting workers into good-paying jobs with a benefit structure befitting skilled long-term careers not just transient or temporary work. The proposed changes would reinforce the principles of a changing construction workforce. It reflects today’s and the future’s workforce featuring reforms to worker diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and extend worker protections for apprentices across the industry sectors now benefiting from Registered Apprenticeships.
SMACNA is an international trade association representing 3,500 contributing contractor firms and is a leader in promoting quality and excellence in the sheet metal and air conditioning industry. SMACNA members are responsible for effectively delivering the clean air Americans breathe in offices, homes, and hospitals; for many of the attractive facades you see on today’s stadiums and office buildings; and for the comfortable, healthy, and safe living environments in which our citizens live out their daily lives. SMACNA has national offices in Chantilly, Va., outside of Washington, D.C., and on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit www.SMACNA.org.