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Heinrich Introduces Legislation to Expand Pre-Apprenticeship Programs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, introduced the Pre-Apprenticeships To Hardhats (PATH) Act, legislation to strengthen the pipeline for careers in New Mexico, address rising workforce shortages, and grow the state’s economy through quality pre-apprenticeship programs. 

“In New Mexico, we have already started to witness historic investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Chips and Science Actdeliver for the people of our state,” said Heinrich. “Together, these landmark laws have helped create thousands of new union career opportunities in the building trades. By expanding access to quality pre-apprenticeship programs, the PATHAct will help connect New Mexicans to these new opportunities, address workforce shortages, build the middle class, grow our economy, and provide more New Mexicans with the careers they can build their families around.” 

In the Senate, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i).

In the House, the legislation was introduced by members of the Bipartisan Building Trades Caucus, including Co-Chairs U.S. Representatives Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), along with Representatives Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Tex.), Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa), Nikki Budzinski (D-Ill.), Marcus Molinaro (R-N.Y.), Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.), Tom Kean (R-N.J.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Max Miller (R-Ohio), Al Horsford (D-Nev.), Lori Chavez-Deremer (R-Ore.), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.), Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), David Joyce (R-Ohio), Frank Mrvan (D-Ind.), and Russell Fry (R-S.C.).

“North America’s Building Trades Unions understand the training and education pathways required to produce a highly-skilled workforce, and we fully support apprenticeship readiness programs,” said Sean McGarvey, President of North America’s Building Trades Unions. “The efforts in the PATHAct not only open the pipelines of the skilled trades to underserved communities across America, they are essential to securing a strong foundation for America’s middle-class and ensuring national and local economic growth.”

"Empowering our workforce in New Mexico through strategic investments in education and training is not just an investment in individuals but a commitment to the prosperity of our communities,” said Isaiah Zemke, Business Manager of Sheet Metal Workers (SMART) Local 49, which serves New Mexico and West Texas.“SMART Local Union 49 aims to bridge the skills gap, foster industry collaboration, and promote sustainability in TAB, HVAC/R, and HVAC controls. The PATHAct will enable SMART to build a skilled, certified, and environmentally conscious workforce, ensuring a brighter future for both labor and management." 

“At the United Association Local 412 in Albuquerque New Mexico, we strongly believe in the investment in pre-apprenticeship as a pathway for young people into apprenticeship and great careers,” said Courtenay Eichhorst, Business Manager, U.A. Local Union No. 412 Plumbers and Pipefitters, and President of New Mexico Building Trades. “The United States is facing a critical shortage of skilled trades people and with important initiatives and projects from federal investments needing the skilled trades workforce, we must provide workforce development to achieve the most out of those investments. Optimizing these investments must include pre-apprenticeship which lead into great paying careers in the skilled trades and economically uplifts our communities, all while improving the infrastructure in our great state and nation. We need to fund pre-apprenticeship programs to carry out these initiatives and build our communities. Pre-apprenticeship is a crucial stepping-stone into registered apprenticeship and provides a ‘pathway out of poverty.’”

Last September, Eichhorst testified about the importance of apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships during a hearing that Heinrich convened as the Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee on “Job Training for the Clean Energy Transition.”

During last year’s JEC hearing, Eichhorst said, “In addition to our ‘gold standard’ apprenticeship programs, the UA and other Building Trades’ unions are also increasingly investing in pre-apprenticeship programs that can be designed to help prepare high school students or individuals from underrepresented communities for a career in the trades. These programs help fill the role that used to be filled by the ‘shop classes’ that were found in high schools but have become increasingly rare. Pre-apprenticeship programs also focus on the ‘soft skills’ that are necessary for success in any industry, such as showing up on time and other work etiquette.”

The Pre-Apprenticeships To Hardhats (PATH) Act:

Quality pre-apprenticeship programs are a proven strategy for building a workforce ready to meet industry demands. Pre-apprenticeship programs instruct participants on everything from basic literacy and math to work-readiness skills, and can be tailored to the needs of students, employers, and local labor markets.

Under the Pre-Apprenticeships To Hardhats (PATH) Act, the U.S. Department of Labor will award grants to a wide variety of organizations, including public or private employers, unions, state and local workforce development boards, community-based organizations, postsecondary educational institutions, school districts, state education agencies, high schools, small businesses, state and local veterans’ agencies, and veterans’ service organizations. 

In turn, the grantees will provide pre-apprenticeship training that leads to the attainment of skills and competencies necessary for registered apprenticeship programs in the building trades.  Funding must be used to cover the cost of training, curriculum development, assessments, and evaluations.  Grantees will be required to focus on working with underrepresented minorities, veterans, women, and low-income communities.  

Background:

With all of the new work opportunities on the way thanks to historic federal investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Chips and Science Act, the construction industry will face a major workforce shortage over the next decade. 

In 2024 alone, the Association of Building Contractors estimates that the construction industry will need to bring in more than 342,000 new workers on top of normal hiring demands. Until we can train more of our workforce, however, many of these critical jobs will go unfilled.

Heinrich has long led efforts to increase access to and expand apprenticeship and workforce training opportunities. In addition to sponsoring the PATH Act to support pre-apprenticeship programs, Heinrich has championed his bipartisan Apprenticeship Pathways Act, a bill to expand access to apprenticeship programs that he introduced alongside U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) last June.

In 2021, Heinrich and Moran introduced the Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees in Technology (CHANCE in Tech) Act, bipartisan legislation to create earlier pathways to high-paying careers in the information technology (IT) industry. Heinrich previously introduced the bipartisan legislation in 2019 with former Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).

Full bill text for the PATH Act is available HERE.