WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the National Apprenticeship Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
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“Madam Speaker, two weeks ago, we learned just how divided our country is. Part of that division, I believe, comes from a broad lack of faith in government to deliver on what the American people need to get ahead in our economy. Americans want their elected officials to focus on reaching consensus on broadly popular initiatives that expand opportunity and connect people with good careers.
“This legislation we are considering today falls within the scope of the Make It In America plan that I’ve been proud to lead since 2010. That plan seeks to make our workers and businesses more competitive by legislating in the three key areas of education and skills training, infrastructure, and entrepreneurship. It is based on bipartisan ideas that most Americans support. One of those ideas is reauthorizing and enhancing the National Apprenticeship Act for the twenty-first century in order to help more of our people reach for the opportunities that enable them to make it in America.
“This bill would have been – and should have been – bipartisan, were it not for the Trump Administration’s insistence on including unaccredited and unproven apprenticeship programs that do not have adequate worker protections or quality standards. That’s a shame, and I hope we can revisit this effort and make it truly bipartisan once President-elect Biden has taken office.
“At a moment when our economy is in crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans are out of work and looking for new ways to get back into the workforce. They recognize that this moment presents an opportunity to gain new skills and move up in their careers. That’s why Congressional support for apprenticeship programs is so important.
“According to the Labor Department, 94% of participants in registered apprenticeships are employed upon completion, with an average starting income of $70,000 a year. This bill would permanently authorize the Labor Department’s Office of Apprenticeship and direct it to promote new partnerships among labor, industry, and educational institutions to create new apprenticeship tracks. It will also codify standards for registered apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, and pre-apprenticeship programs.
“This legislation would invest more than $3 billion in the National Apprenticeship System over the next five years in order to create nearly 1 million additional apprenticeship opportunities by 2025. For those worried about the cost of this legislation, here is another figure to consider: the $10.6 billion in increased tax revenues and decreased spending on public-assistance programs and unemployment insurance that will be saved.
“At the same time, this bill includes measures to promote greater diversity among those accessing apprenticeship programs. This is critical at a moment when the pandemic has led women’s workforce participation to fall to a level unseen since 1988. Right now, only 10% of apprenticeships are held by women. By promoting greater diversity of access, we can increase that percentage dramatically and help millions of women jump-start their return to the workforce while helping them get ahead in their careers.
“I want to thank Rep. Davis for sponsoring this bill. She has been a champion for workers and apprenticeship opportunities for decades. I also want to thank Chairman Scott of the Education and Labor Committee for his work moving this bill through committee. In spite of the Trump Administration’s attempts to sabotage it, I hope this legislation will pass with the kind of strong bipartisan support it deserves.
“And I urge all of my colleagues to join me in voting for a bill that will give all our people faith that Washington is united in our determination to help them get through this crisis and build back better for the future.”