Construction companies nationwide continue to face workforce shortages due to lack of skilled workers in this industry. More than 250,000 jobs remain unfilled annually. Representatives Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) are trying to change this statistic by introducing the Apprenticeship Enhancement Act of 2000. Strongly supported by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), Alexandria, Va., this reform measure would bring more accountability and efficiency to the approval of apprenticeship programs and help alleviate skilled worker shortages.

Currently, those seeking approval for apprenticeship programs from the Federal Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (BAT) or the state apprenticeship councils often run into roadblocks. For example, applicants may be rejected without explanation, and deadlines are not enforced. Such delays deny apprentices training, decrease job opportunities and contribute to worker shortages.

If approved, this bill would streamline the approval process by requiring the local BAT offices or SACs to act on applications within a specified time limit. It would also require these offices to provide written justification for their decision and allow applicants the opportunity for a hearing if there is a factual dispute. If denied, applicants could also appeal to the Secretary of Labor.

"For too long, effective apprenticeship training programs have been at the mercy of an approval process that is vague and not accountable," said AGC Vice-President and CEO Stephen E. Sandherr. "The Apprenticeship Enhancement Act of 2000 will help make the government more responsive and accountable to the taxpayers."