ABC: New Biden Executive Order Pushing Apprenticeships Will Disrupt Construction Industry

Washington, March 6—Associated Builders and Contractors today issued the following statement in response to President Biden’s executive order, Scaling and Expanding the Use of Registered Apprenticeships in Industries and the Federal Government and Promoting Labor-Management Forums.

“While ABC supports efforts to expand government-registered apprenticeship programs—or GRAPs—as part of an all-of-the above approach to upskilling the construction industry, this latest executive overreach by the Biden administration is likely to be very disruptive and will undermine taxpayer investments in the construction of infrastructure, clean energy and domestic manufacturing projects,” said Ben Brubeck ABC vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs. “The executive order creates an artificial demand for contractors and apprentices participating in GRAPs by directing federal agencies to require or incentivize GRAP participation on federal and federally assisted projects.

“This will reduce competition from qualified contractors that lack access to GRAPs or simply choose not to participate in the GRAP system because they use alternative workforce development programs,” said Brubeck. “The government data are clear: America’s government-registered apprenticeship system, which had an enrollment of 250,000 apprentice participants and graduated between 40,000 and 45,000 apprentices in FY 2023, is not keeping up with construction industry demand for skilled craft professionals.*

“This order, a product of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, appears to disproportionately benefit unionized contractors and unions,” said Brubeck. “About 69% of all construction industry GRAP participants are in union programs, so this is another way that the Biden administration is using policy to steer taxpayer-funded construction contracts primarily to unionized contractors and union labor. Instead of imposing new hurdles for the 89.3% of the construction industry that does not belong to a union, this administration should be crafting policy that encourages fair and open competition regardless of how contractors choose to upskill their workforce. That will deliver the best value to all taxpayers.

“Further, initial feedback from ABC member contractors on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Jan. 17 rulemaking proposing controversial changes to apprenticeship regulations has been overwhelmingly negative,” said Brubeck. As currently drafted, the proposed rule will ultimately weaken a key ingredient in the construction industry’s all-of-the-above solution to its short- and long-term skilled workforce shortage.

“This new executive order further complicates the proposed rule, given that contractors will now face new requirements and strong government policy incentives to participate in GRAPs,” said Brubeck. “ABC urges stakeholders to utilize ABC’s Action Center, or draft their own comments, to oppose this costly new policy by the March 18 comment deadline.

ABC’s chapters are educating craft, safety and management professionals using innovative and flexible learning models like just-in-time task training, competency-based progression and work-based learning, in addition to more than 450 federal and state GRAPs in more than 20 different occupations across America, in order to develop a safe, skilled and productive workforce. Visit to find a GRAP run by ABC’s 68 chapters across the United States.

*Note that five states did not report complete GRAP data to the DOL, so ABC’s figure incorporates rough estimates to account for missing data in order to paint a more complete picture.

About ABC

Associated Builders and Contractors is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents more than 23,000 members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 68 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. Visit us at