Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Kingdom For An Apprenticeship Program!

With all apologies to Richard III, in New York, more and more municipalities and their agencies are requiring contractors and subcontractors to have a New York State registered apprenticeship training program in order to bid on and be awarded local public works construction contracts. Apprenticeship programs are used by contractors to train inexperienced workers and usually consist of classroom and on-the-job training.

For union contractors, the requirement is not a problem typically since most, if not all, participate in their union’s apprenticeship program. However, for contractors that are not affiliated with a union, the requirement can be catastrophic as a vast majority of them cannot afford the costs of implementing and maintaining an apprenticeship program; the administrative red-tape as well as the protracted amount of time for program approval add to the problem significantly. Where such a program is required, non-union contractors lacking same are ineligible to bid on contracts put out by public entities that have the requirement and are thus excluded from competitive bidding. Accordingly, taxpayer costs increase due to a lack of true competitive bidding/pricing, and the pool of public works contractors becomes limited. Further, those that rely on public work, but which cannot afford an apprentice program, either have to reduce their workforce or cease business operations entirely. Quite a draconian result, but one which is becoming increasingly familiar.

Recent New York State budget cuts have served only to make matters worse as personnel shortages add to already long delays in the approval and registration process. If staffing is not restored fully by the State, there may come a point in the near future where it will be necessary to put a freeze on approving and registering new apprenticeship programs, thereby giving those which have them in place already a decided, and perhaps permanent advantage.

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