A bill to create a brand new state agency to oversee apprenticeship programs didn’t sit well with many Republicans in the Colorado House on Tuesday.
Although the bill won preliminary approval in that Democratic-controlled chamber, Republicans argued that House Bill 1007 is too expensive and totally unneeded.
Under the bill, a new State Apprenticeship Agency would be created, one designed to be a conduit between existing and new apprenticeship programs and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship. Currently, those programs register directly with the federal government.
The measure also would create a new State Apprenticeship Council and an Interagency Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship to help guide that agency, which would operate under the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
But Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, R-Highlands Ranch, said there’s nothing wrong with existing apprenticeships programs that are operating now, and the bill only will take money away from other needs, such as roads and bridges.
“We already have 480 apprenticeship programs across our great state, and we have heard from many, many of them, including the state’s largest apprenticeship program, that this new bureaucracy is totally unnecessary,” Van Winkle said. “It actually will make things harder for hard-working taxpayers and for those who already are in one of those 480 apprenticeship programs that already are working well by themselves without all this $1 million in state bureaucracy over their heads.”
When the agency is fully operational by 2022, the bill calls for funding it nearly $970,000 a year and hiring more than eight new state workers.
The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, said the new agency will help all of those apprenticeship programs churn out more skilled workers, and spur new programs to help train people in other industries that don’t or have limited apprenticeship programs.
“A variety of educational opportunities are necessary in order to maintain and increase the vitality and dynamism of the Colorado economy,” Sullivan said. “Whether Coloradans chose to pursue employment in the building and construction trades or work in another industry, they and their employers are benefited by structured apprenticeship programs and resources, which are an investment in our state’s future.”
Sullivan and Rep. David Ortiz, D-Littleton, another main sponsor of the bill, said the new agency also would serve as a source of educational material and other technological resources that will help those apprenticeship programs operate better than they are now.
The bill requires a final House vote before it heads to the Senate.