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Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During Hearing on H.R. 8294

As prepared for delivery during today’s hearing:

Today’s hearing is on H.R. 8294, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020.  

Apprenticeships remain a key tool in building and strengthening the workforce of tomorrow. For hundreds of thousands of American workers, an apprenticeship is a gateway to a sustainable, high-paying, and skilled career. Indeed, apprenticeships offer American workers economic opportunity and set them up for success without being tied to large amounts of student debt.

While Republicans and Democrats agree on the need to reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act, we unfortunately disagree on this package. Rather than modernizing the apprenticeship system and embracing employer-led innovation, Democrats have instead doubled down on the system as it is, not as it could be.

During the markup in the Education and Labor Committee, Republicans offered a commonsense alternative in the form of a substitute amendment that would embrace employer-driven innovation and new models for apprenticeship programs. Rather than being locked in to a one-size-fits-all program, Republicans sought to embrace new models that would grant employers flexibility, using the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act framework. 

Unfortunately, the Republican substitute amendment was not adopted. However, I look forward to hearing from Ranking Member Foxx on the innovative approach Republicans sought to include, and I look forward to hearing why this proposal is better for American workers than the one before us today.

Mr. Chairman, at the end of the day, Republicans and Democrats want the same thing: a robust apprenticeship program that supports educating American workers for new, high-paying careers. Though we may object to this bill, at the end of the day I think we agree on more than we disagree. This could be a real opportunity for us to produce a better, bipartisan piece of legislation that reauthorizes this important program while modernizing it for the future. I think the committee would be best served to move in a bipartisan direction rather than advancing H.R. 8294 as written.

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