July 23, 2019

‘Building a More Vibrant Rhode Island’ bills pass Senate

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State House – Three bills that are part of the Rhode Island Senate’s “Building a More Vibrant Rhode Island” economic development package passed the Senate today. The bills that relate to expanding apprenticeship opportunities were sponsored by Sen. Frank A. Ciccone (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence), Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) and Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).

The first bill (2019-S 0713A), sponsored by Senator Ciccone, expands state law for public works contracts so that public school construction contracts valued at $5 million or more shall have apprenticeship programs and that no less than 15 percent of labor hours worked shall be by apprentices.

“With the massive investment in school construction that our state is undertaking, it is imperative that we help train and educate future laborers through apprenticeships on these projects. More apprenticeships means more future well-paying middle class jobs that will strengthen our economy going forward,” said Senator Ciccone.

The second bill (2019-S 0726A), sponsored by Senator Cano, cleans up state apprenticeship laws to align with federal language. The state of Rhode Island is among the states that administer their apprenticeship programs on behalf of the federal government. When the federal government approved Rhode Island’s administration of such programs, certain state laws needed to be updated. The bill codifies when Rhode Island shall recognize out-of-state apprentices registered elsewhere and working in Rhode Island. It also aligns apprenticeship requirements with federal standards, such as making the number of hours required by apprentices enumerated instead of the number of years of on-the-job learning. Finally, the legislation defines apprentice in state law, mirroring the national definition.

“If Rhode Island is going to have a vibrant and effective apprenticeship program, we must comply with and follow the best practices laid out on the federal level. This bill will make it easier for our residents to take part in apprenticeship programs, paving the way for economic success for Rhode Island’s future workers,” said Senator Cano.

The third piece of legislation (2019-S 0714A), sponsored by Senator Coyne, would require the workforce board to fund a non-trade apprenticeship incentive program for industries identified and approved by the board, including, but not limited to, agriculture, commercial fisheries and marine trades.

“It is important that we as a state look outside the box when implementing our apprentice programs. The traditional trades such as construction and plumbing are still crucial to our economic health, but if we expand our apprenticeship programs to industries such as fishing and agriculture, we can expand our workforce for industries that Rhode Island has relied upon for generations. Apprenticeships for these industries will allow these businesses to thrive in the future,” said Senator Coyne.

All three bills now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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