The U.S. workforce has experienced record rates of unemployment as a direct result of the ongoing pandemic, affecting every state, industry, and demographic. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, the pre-pandemic unemployment rate (3.8 percent) was the among the lowest on record. Unemployment peaked in April 2020 (14.8 percent), especially in leisure and the hospitality industries which experienced the highest rates (39.3 percent) of any economic sector. Although these rates have declined since April 2020, they remain elevated for a number of industries that provide in-person services. The Congressional Research Service reported that the unemployment rate in the hospitality industry remained comparatively high (16.7 percent) in December 2020.
As the country charts its path towards recovery, cultivating skilled labor and talent retention will be critical to reviving the
economy. The U.S. response to historical crises exemplifies this. In the wake of the Great Depression, Congress passed the 1937 National Apprenticeship Act to establish a nationwide program that educated, trained, and employed apprentices and skilled workers. This program has drawn bipartisan support throughout its 80-year history, and the House Committee on Education and Labor is pushing to expand it in the 117th Congress.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, introduced the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021 (H.R. 447) on Jan. 25, 2021. According to the committee, this bill would invest nearly $3.5 billion over the next five years to invest in apprenticeship programs and workforce training. As of Feb. 2, 2021, the bill was awaiting a vote in the House with 81 Democratic and 10 Republican cosponsors.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA),
Sponsor of the National Apprenticeship Act
“Registered Apprenticeships remain one of our most successful tools for connecting workers with in-demand skills and good-paying jobs. This bipartisan bill – which passed the House will overwhelming support last year – will create nearly 1 million new apprenticeships and expand these opportunities to include a more diverse group of workers and a wider array of industries. It also enhances youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs that will prepare a new generation of workers for the modern economy.”
Sen. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA),
Co-sponsor of the National Apprenticeship Act
“Apprenticeship programs grow our economy by fostering training programs that will prepare workers for in-demand careers while addressing our nation’s current shortage of trained workers. By closing the skills gap, this reauthorization of the National Apprenticeship Act will enhance and invest in the Registered Apprenticeship model so that more Americans, especially students, have more options and access to good-paying jobs that support working families.