The state’s labor department is rolling out new rules requiring apprenticeship programs for workers in government construction projects – a move local trade associations worry is too strenuous for them to continue to do business in New Jersey.
Under Assembly Bill 3666 – which Gov. Phil Murphy signed in January – the new rules would require contractors registering with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to show that their workers are participating in or completed an apprenticeship program recognized by the federal government.
Such programs can include a curriculum of “classroom and on-the-job” training for skilled trades such as electricians and plumbers, according to the bill.
The measure does not extend to businesses which have already registered with the labor department, only those in the process of registration. But the regulations could likely be tweaked down the road, according to the Employers Association of New Jersey.
Either way, the measure has trade groups warily eyeing the new rules and how they might be implemented by the labor department.
“This proposal… would make it virtually impossible for small businesses to comply,” reads a statement from the New Jersey Electronic Security Association, a trade group that represents fire alarm businesses. “Thousands of small businesses and their employees throughout New Jersey would be disenfranchised when they are unable to comply with these proposed regulations, thereby barring them from registering as a Public Works Contractor in New Jersey.”
To deal with the new rules, according to the EANJ, a contractor could sign an agreement with a building trades union, many of whom operate apprenticeship programs registered by the federal government.
Contractors could also partner with an association or industry trade group that maintains a recognized apprenticeship program, the EANJ said, or they could start their own recognized program.
“Contractors who have performed HVACR work for a number of years, without completing an apprenticeship, would be subject to these new overburdening requirements,” reads a statement from the New Jersey Air Conditioning Contractors Association.
“This bill puts an undue burden on our businesses, of which are already licensed, and our employees who will be required to add additional training beyond what we have already provided,” the statement adds.