AP NEWS

Alaska labor officials scrap training requirement changes

February 13, 2020 GMT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska state Labor Department officials have cancelled a plan to overhaul training requirements for aspiring plumbers, electricians and linemen.

The decision followed criticism from legislators and numerous construction trade groups, The Alaska Journal of Commerce reported Wednesday.

Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Tamika Ledbetter announced Feb. 7 that the department suspended the pending regulations package.

The suspension will allow additional engagement with stakeholders on ways to strengthen career and technical training, Ledbetter said.

The department issued proposed regulations in December that would have allowed people seeking to become journeyman plumbers, electricians or linemen to qualify for the each trade’s certificate of fitness exam through 12,000 hours of general work experience.

The current regulations mandate 8,000 hours of work in registered apprenticeship s.

“My goal is to ensure that Alaskans are trained and prepared to participate in this economy,” Ledbetter said in a statement.

A Feb. 5 House Labor and Commerce Committee meeting included comments from lawmakers who said the plan would amount to a workaround requiring little documentation for contractors who want to offer journeyman opportunities while paying lower wages to inexperienced workers.

Workers’ Compensation Division Director Grey Mitchell said the on-the-job training proposal would still require trainees to take the requisite certificate of fitness exam.

“Our goal was simple,” Mitchell said. “To increase training opportunities and employment opportunities for individual Alaskans and give employers more options to train their future workforce.”

Democratic Rep. Zack Fields, a director for the Laborers’ Local 341 union, said the proposal inadvertently undermines contractors who invested in apprenticeship programs.

Employers offering the work experience route would not be subject to the same wage scales as companies that use certified apprenticeship s. The change would encourage employers to hire out-of-state workers who accept lower wages, Fields said.

“You’re setting up a puppy mill type of operation,” Fields said.