New state agency to oversee Colorado apprenticeship programs

From a story by Julia Fennell shared on Colorado Newsline on November 26, 2021.

Colorado is in the process of creating a state learning agency, an initiative that some say will expand opportunities for residents to learn valuable skills. The agency will give the state, rather than the federal government, the authority to register apprenticeship programs in Colorado and set standards for those programs.

On June 23, Governor Jared Polis signed House Bill 21-1007, the law that will establish a Colorado state apprenticeship agency. The legislation allocates $ 485,249 to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to fund the new agency.

Certain occupations, such as carpentry, construction, musical instrument repair, and electrical work, generally require an apprenticeship to begin, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cell technicians, computer systems administrators and hackers were recently approved apprenticeship professions, according to the government’s apprenticeship agency website. There are also approved learnings in other areas, including software development, cybersecurity, massage therapy, animal care, and cosmetology. The government agency maintains a list of approved apprenticeship professions.

A crane towers over a construction site in Denver’s Highland neighborhood on May 3, 2021. Photo by Moe Clark / Colorado Newsline.

Colorado’s new state agency will not be an official state learning agency until it is recognized by the US Department of Labor (DOL), said Katherine Keegan, director of the Office of the Future of Work, which oversees the state learning agency. The Office of the Future of Work, created by a governor’s order in 2019, works to prepare Colorado’s future economy with rising globalization and technological advancements.

The learning agency will work to promote programs so that more Coloradans can “access these essential training opportunities, which to date have launched the careers of nearly 2 million Americans over the past decade. Colorado Democrats wrote in a May press release. .

The new state agency would work with businesses and organizations offering apprenticeship programs in Colorado to provide technical assistance to help businesses create and meet standards for apprenticeship programs, according to the release. hurry.

Some supporters of the bill argue that increased state control over apprenticeships could reduce the time it takes for an apprenticeship to be registered.

State Representatives Tom Sullivan and David Ortiz, and State Senators Jessie Danielson and Robert Rodriguez introduced the bill in February. Other Colorado government officials signed on as co-sponsors, including Representatives Brianna Titone and Alec Garnett, current Speaker of the House, and Senator Kerry Donovan, who recently suspended her campaign for the 3rd Congressional District. Colorado due to redistribution.

State OA vs State SAA

Colorado is currently a state office of learning, or a state of OA. Over the next year and a half, Colorado’s apprenticeship agency will go through the process of developing the standards and its plan, which it will then submit to the Department of Labor for recognition. Once recognized, Colorado will become an official state of the State Learning Agency, or SAA, Keegan said.

In OA states, registration and monitoring of registered learning programs is done by federal DOL staff through state field offices, according to the American Association of Community Colleges website.

In SAA states, registration and monitoring of state-registered apprenticeship programs is carried out by the state. The Ministry of Labor must recognize a state as an SAA before the state becomes one. Colorado aims to be recognized as a SAA state in 2023. The bill requires the State Apprenticeship Agency to begin accepting applications for registration of apprenticeship programs on July 1, 2023.

The State Apprenticeship Council oversees registered apprenticeship programs in Colorado and ensures that registered programs comply with state and federal laws and standards. The board will be composed of 16 members.

Colorado has received “a few different” federal grants that support the expansion of registered apprenticeships, which the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the Office of the Future of Work administer to support the adoption of training programs. learning, Keegan said.

If an employer in Colorado wants to create a registered apprenticeship program now, they can contact one of Colorado’s apprenticeship consultants. The employer will have to go through the process of creating learning standards and work processes, and then the consultant will help the employer submit it to DOL for approval, Keegan said.

The main difference between what happens now and what will happen once the state apprenticeship agency is recognized by the DOL is that once recognized, Colorado employers will submit their apprenticeship standards and their work processes to the state instead of the DOL for approval.

Some people who testified against the bill in the hearings voiced concerns that creating a state apprenticeship agency would no longer add bureaucracy or make it harder for Colorado employers to operate. establishing or registering their apprenticeship programs.

Robert Cheney, president and CEO of RK Electrical, testified against the bill during the May 24 hearing on HB-1007. RK Electrical is one of seven companies owned by RK Industries, which offers construction, manufacturing and service solutions, according to its website. RK’s apprenticeship program was created 25 years ago to give unskilled employees a head start in the construction industry, Cheney said at the hearing.

“Supporters of the bill say they are not trying to create a political system, but their focus on the SAA oversight structure, board and implementation described does just that.” , Cheney said. “This leaves the oversight and decision-making for approving a learning program to a structured and appointed board. “

Colorado employers may have apprenticeship programs that are not registered with the DOL, Keegan said. Enrollment in an apprenticeship program can be a measure of a high quality apprenticeship program, as it shows that the program has met the standards required to be enrolled. Enrollment in an apprenticeship program also allows the employer to access more funding to support apprenticeships, as well as other resources.

Apprenticeships and internships are not the same thing, Keegan said. Registered apprenticeship programs require skills development during the apprenticeship, and apprentices must receive on-the-job training, related training and on-the-job mentoring.

“It combines education, on-the-job learning and engagement with the industry,” Keegan said. “These skills that are acquired during apprenticeship translate into an industry-recognized diploma. ”

Ninety-four percent of apprentices who complete an apprenticeship program keep their jobs and have an average annual salary of $ 70,000, according to a fact sheet from the Apprenticeship Office, which was updated to last time in September 2020.

In fiscal year 2020 – October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020 – more than 221,000 people across the country entered the apprenticeship system, according to the U.S. Apprenticeship Program at US Employment and Training Administration. More than 80,000 apprentices left the apprenticeship system in fiscal year 2020.

Employers who register their apprenticeship program with the US Department of Labor show potential job seekers that their program meets national quality standards, according to the fact sheet.

The U.S. Department of Labor found that between 2011 and 2020, the number of new apprentices increased by 70% nationwide, according to a press release from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Senate Bill 19-171 requires the CDLE to create and maintain a repository of recorded learning resources in Colorado.

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