The nation's home builders expressed support for the Apprenticeship Enhancement Act of 2003 (H.R. 1660), noting that it would help to alleviate the severe shortage of skilled workers in construction, crafts and trades, said a press release from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Washington, D.C.

Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives April 8 by Reps. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas; and Buck McKeon, R-Calif., the bill would restore balance and fairness to the approval of apprenticeship programs, which provide job training for more than 400,000 registered apprentices.

Under current law, apprenticeship programs seeking approval from the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Apprenticeship, Training, Employer and Labor Services (ATELS) and state apprenticeship councils (SACs) often face costly and lengthy delays in obtaining federal approval. In some cases, apprenticeship programs that meet federal standards have had to wait several years for authorization.

“By expediting the process through which apprenticeship programs become federally approved, this bill will increase job-training opportunities for thousands of Americans and help to ease the nationwide shortage of skilled workers,” said Jerry Howard, executive vice president and CEO of NAHB.

The Apprenticeship Enhancement Act of 2003 would streamline the approval process by requiring local ATELS offices or SACs to render a decision within 90 days after an application is submitted. The bill requires that any approval or disapproval of an application must be accompanied by a written justification for the action.

“This legislation removes bureaucratic roadblocks to job-training opportunities for individuals who are seeking to enhance their careers through on-the-job training and classroom learning. Apprenticeship programs are a vital tool to help participants make a successful transition into the workforce,” said Howard.

Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC), Alexandria, Va., also supports the legislation.